Salt Box

Sugar with spice makes things nice at The Spice & Tea Exchange

There's a season for everything, but at Old Town's Spice & Tea Exchange, everything has its seasoning.

This new shop–part of a budding franchise–is like an apothecary of edibles. Large, elegant jars of spices line the rustic wooden shelves, and shopkeepers encourage you to stick your nose in and sniff out differences between various cinnamons and Thai spice rubs. Even the black, green and herbal teas ($5 for 1 ounce) incorporate spices in blends like cinnamon-spiced black tea and herbal ginger brew with lemongrass.

New merchandise arrives twice a week and is bagged in small batches, so it's markedly more aromatic and fresh than the supermarket equivalents.

But it's the house-infused sugars and salts ($5 for 1.5 ounces) that really set the shop apart. The shop offers dozens of combinations, which blend dehydrated citrus zests, peppers and purées with salt or sugar. Each combination is flavored naturally: Lime-coconut sea salt is smoked over lime leaves and coconut husks, then brightened with lime and lemon zests. Habañero sugar packs intense heat on top of the sweetness, and is dangerous in brownie batter.

The owners recommend using sweet-onion sugar, chocolate salt or any other infusions as toppings on yogurt, rim flavorings for cocktails, and substitutes for regular sugar and salt in baked goods.

The Spice & Tea Exchange of Alexandria, 320 King St., Alexandria; 571-312-8505 or spiceandtea.com