The Flaky Salt Queen Elizabeth Designated With A Royal Warrant

Browse the shelves of any British supermarket, and you'll notice that some products sport a mysterious coat of arms. You could almost mistake it for the heraldry of a Hogwarts house, yet look closer, and you'll see no mention of Gryffindor or Slytherin. So what is it actually for?

Whether it's tomato ketchup, chocolate, or gin, the famous Lion and Unicorn coat of arms signifies that the product has the royal seal of approval. Known as the "Royal Warrant," around 800 British businesses currently have bragging rights to it (via The Royal Warrant Holders Association).

To qualify for the Royal Warrant, a product or service has to regularly supply goods to the reigning monarch for five consecutive years. The current Royal Warrant list reads like a Who's Who of British food and includes Cadbury chocolate, Walker's Shortbread, and HP Sauce (a favorite addition to the classic British bacon sandwich, per Delishably).

Also taking its place in this foodie hall of fame is a salt that earned the royal thumbs-up from Queen Elizabeth II herself. But what makes it so special? And why, according to The Discoverer, has it also picked up praise from celebrities like Cameron Diaz and Gwyneth Paltrow?

Sea salt harvested for generations

Not every salt is ordinary, designed to fade into the background in that worn-out shaker on the table. If one type was ever destined to strut its stuff down a red carpet, it might well be Maldon Sea Salt. Due to its distinctive flavor, it is sought after by gourmets worldwide, with Bon Appétit describing it as "the one name-brand ingredient every chef and home cook can agree on."

Made by the Maldon Crystal Salt Company, it was given the Royal Warrant in 2012, yet its roots go back much further. According to the Maldon website, this local business has been run by the same family — the Osbornes — since 1882. The family harvests their sea flakes in the ancient coastal town of Maldon in South East England. The source of the sea flakes isn't the beach but the nearby River Blackwater that flows into the North Sea. As described by The Discoverer, this river has the ideal conditions for producing tasty salt due to briny water and relatively low rainfall. 

As Alannah Wiseman explains, the family's "sea to seasoning" method ensures that each salt flake upholds its flavor and texture from the beginning to the last step of being shipped out (via Maldon). Maybe that's why Queen Elizabeth developed such a liking for it.

But what does Maldon Sea Salt actually taste like? 

Enhance your steak, veggies, or cookies with Maldon sea salt

According to Allrecipes, sea salt, on the whole, tends to be coarser than table salt, resulting in a crunchier experience. And because sea salt is less processed than the table variety, it still has some of its trace minerals, enhancing its flavor (via Mayo Clinic). Sea salt is also more delicate than table salt. Basically, it's like adding a whole new dimension to your food.

But what about Maldon in particular? It's known for its distinctive flavor, satisfyingly crunchy texture, and pyramid-shaped crystals. Its presence in food is tangible and seems to have its own personality. Bon Appétit suggests that the secret of its appeal is that it just isn't as salty as other salts. In other words, it's not as bitter or overpowering, even bordering on sweet. Maldon itself describes the salt's flavors as clean and intense.

Yet as Eating Well points out, it's generally more of a finishing salt. So you wouldn't add it to boiling water for spaghetti, but your steak would thank you heartily if you adorned it with a pinch or two (as would that buttery corn-on-the-cob). And let's not forget the baked goods — Maldon can add a nice savory contrast to sweet treats, which is why King Arthur Baking suggests topping a batch of your favorite brownies or cookies with it. 

From pepping up steamed vegetables to adding a snowy coating of deliciousness to roast beef, Maldon is a go-to pantry product. Even without the Royal Warrant, it seems to have won the heart of anyone whose happy place is the kitchen.