World Spice Merchants has been inspiring Mallard for over 20 years…
…and yes that is longer than we’ve been in business.
From Ben Scholtz, Mallard Ice Cream, owner.
In 1995 Grunge was in fashion, dot-coms were growing, I was working at the Seattle Art Museum, and World Spice Merchants opened for business.
I was in the habit of eating lunch in the international district at the time, and taking the bus tunnel left me a little extra time to explore before I needed to get back to work. I was never a coffee drinker, but I started bringing tea back from my lunch trips to drink at work. I think my first purchase was a bulk tin of Dragon Well, and I would brew it in this huge glass and let it over-steep and keep adding water to cut the bitterness. A few months later I walked in to World Spice Merchants. A few things stood out immediately. First was the amazing smells and colors of all the fresh spices on display. More than that, I was struck by how friendly and knowledgeable the owner was. And their selection of tea was fantastic. The shop wasn’t that busy yet, and Tony could spend an hour or more visiting in the shop, brewing tea, and explaining about Time/Temperature/Ratio, different tea varieties, and so on.
Tea brewing was a major influence on my approach to ice cream because it trained my pallet and also got me to pay attention to the influence of small changes in parameters. As much as that, Tony’s emphasis on freshness, sourcing, and customer education were all big influences on the the experience I created at Mallard. I remember thinking of World Spice, “if you were to imagine someone scouring the globe for tea and spices on your behalf, they would be it”. I wanted to be that for ice cream, and it gave me a model of aggressively pursuing a topic in food, in a fun and friendly way.
When I moved back to Bellingham I was working for the previous owner of Mallard. In 2001 when Mallard went out of business and I purchased it. The first improvement I made for the shop was switching to World Spice for Cinnamon, from whatever we had been getting at Cash and Carry. We started branching out into different spices. For several years it seemed like we were answering the question, “What is cardamom?” about 20 times a day. At the time, I kept asking, “what else could work in ice cream?”. As our experience and confidence grew, we expanded to a range of brewed tea flavors, as well as more and more spice combinations.
Two things stand out for me about World Spice Merchants. First, World Spice Merchants has deep connections and knowledge, and is dealing directly with farms or at least sources closer to the origin, compared to other companies that are just buying from a distributor. Second, World Spice Merchants emphasizes purchasing for freshness, and is committed to bringing an incredibly wide range of culinary spices with impeccable quality. If World Spice Merchants doesn’t carry a spice, it likely isn’t available in North America.
World Spice Merchants has been in business for 25 years, and I have owned Mallard for 17. In that time, a lot has changed in the world of prepared food. World Spice is, perhaps, under-appreciated as a leader in that change. Their business was on the forefront of ushering in and defining a new wave of what is possible in prepared food and ingredients, both for the home cook and for restaurants.
See today’s Ice Cream Flavors HERE