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Canary Islands and food supplying problems

The Canary Islands are a group of Spanish islands next to the coast of Morocco and the Western Sahara region.
Due to their unfavorable position in Europe they were granted some special laws regarding taxation and lower VAT to stimulate the economy.

Most of these measures have helped the islands to develop their economy, based mainly on tourism, and are still in place even if with time the incentives have become lower every year.
By modern standards this Spanish region is easily accessible by plane, but especially by boats that are able to transport any kind of goods within a short span of time from Europe.

Everything seems smooth on paper until you crash with the most unexpected barrier: customs.

Yes, the Canary Islands still have customs with Europe so any good you purchase outside of this territory must be analyzed and eventually taxed through customs.
As you can imagine in 2022, with online sales and huge distribution channels, like Amazon(where only 30% of goods is available for shipping to Canary Islands though), or similar shops, the local customs find themselves completely overrun by thousands of orders.

The result is a long waiting time for deliveries, especially during the Christmas season (last year many orders were dispatched 3 months after the arrival).
Big companies have special channels for deliveries, even through customs, plus they have their own transportation network that is precisely timed to allow fresh products (like milk, cheese, yogurt etc) to be delivered long before the expiration date.

Small and medium companies do not have such advantages so they rely on intermediaries.
These intermediaries are shipping companies that deal with the transportation and customs documentation of any kind of good.

In Bakery de Stefano we use high quality ingredients only.
A bakery mainly uses the following ingredients:

  • Flour
  • Eggs
  • Butter (and dairy products)
  • Sugar
  • Chocolate
  • Nuts

Let us analyze each category.

Different flours are extremely important when baking because they are specifically tailored for certain products.
Flours for biscuits, bread or viennoiseries, they all have different characteristics in terms of extensibility, elasticity, flavor.
Wheat does not grow in Canary Islands but there are some mills in Tenerife and Gran Canaria that process Spanish and foreign wheat to make flour.
We got in touch with these mills but they were not able to provide products with the specifics we needed for our breads and biscuits both in terms of flavor and rheological properties.

Therefore we import our flour from Spain (Farinera Coromina, a high quality mill created in 1897 in Banyoles near Girona) and Italy (Molino Caputo, one of the most known high quality mills in Italy).
Flours have a long expiration date, 1-2 years, so transportation is not a problem in terms of quality deterioration.

In Gran Canaria there are multiple egg producers that can provide good quality fresh eggs, so we can easily rely on a high standard for our production.

Some producers make butter in Canary Islands but the climate is not ideal for butter production. Fresh products, like mozzarella, burrata or stracciatella can be very high quality (check Paolí Mozzarella, a local producer that makes fresh dairy cheese with local milk if you look for something outstanding) but butter is still too inconsistent for professional bakers/kitchens who need a stable product.
When speaking about butter, everyone in the business knows that already between summer and winter in Europe there is a good difference in product quality in terms of flavor (with winter being the best time for butter production). High quality butter comes from cows that eat grass near the coastline and live at temperatures around 12-18º Celsius.
Guess why the best butters are made in the north coast of France (Normandie and Bretagne).
Spain has the luck to have a good production of milk and butter in the north, the Asturias region.
In Bakery de Stefano we rely on Central Asturiana for our butter/milk/whipping cream and the quality has always been on top of our expectations.
We personally analyze every batch for change in color and smell but we never found any imperfection (this is one of the secrets for our great chocolate cookies, an incredible butter!).

Bakers mainly use two kinds of butter:

  • Traditional high quality butter
  • Special extra dry butter for viennoiseries

High quality extra dry butter (Elle et Vire, Corman etc) is very hard to find and unless you are able to order a pallet (900kg). Foreign companies/traders are not willing to ship because often small amounts get stuck at customs for weeks and then the product expires.
I know some colleagues who order smaller amounts of high quality butter + extra dry + high quality whipping cream, but they often have delivery problems and all this results in inconsistency in their daily production.
At the time of writing we do not make croissants or other viennoiseries for the lack of availability of high quality flat extra dry butter.

Sugar is one of the easiest products to find anywhere so there are no particular problems about it. It is extremely hard though to find high quality raw sugar (with molasses) for professional use.
Small batches are available but the price is for small specialty consumers and there are no 25kg bags available.

The Canary Islands have a warm climate, but people still enjoy chocolate. Lately there has been an increase in chocolate quality with some chocolate makers' shops popping around the islands.
It is still early to know how the public will react to these new businesses but it seems promising.
Despite this attempt there is no chocolate tradition in Canary Islands so the supply is mainly low quality.
Only lately some producers like Valrhona have started shipping to the islands from Barcelona and it is the only way to get such premium chocolate for professional cooking.
We only use Valrhona chocolate in our products and sometimes we organize chocolate tastings (also with some specialty bean to bar brands) to make people aware of the high difference in quality between different bars, origins and manufacturing processes.

Luckily nuts are widely available in Canary Islands and we are able to choose different varieties of the same kind of nut. They also have long expiration dates. 

This little resumé about the most commonly used products makes you understand why many bakeries sell the same products that taste almost identical. It’s because they use the same ingredients from the same suppliers. They have little choice (plus they are not really willing to spend time looking for different suppliers, even abroad).

If one day a big change with customs will happen we will surely see an increase in quality supply towards Canary Islands, that will result in better products for customers who are willing to pay for something different, better designed and more healthy than those products made with low quality ingredients.

As Bakery de Stefano we support customers' knowledge of the ingredients we are using in our recipes. Please make sure to check the Ingredients tab to get informed about the brands and qualities we use in our pastries or bread.

Flavio de Stefano

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