Black Pepper

Black Pepper, the King of Spices.

Our love affair with black pepper dates back as far as the 16th century when it was one of the first spices brought to Britain and is today, the world's most widely traded spice. Native to Southern India, the 'land of pepper' lies inland from Kerala and the spice has been used in Indian cooking since 2000 BC. Also known as the King of Spice or 'black gold', black pepper was widely revered and used in place of money, in fact, the term "peppercorn rent" used as a term for token payment is derived from this.

The Magic of Pepper

The tiny peppercorn is the dried fruit of the climbing vine Piper nigrum. It is a plant native to Southern India which is also commonly grown in several tropical countries.

The pepper berries are hand harvested as they ripen, darkening from a bright to a deep green then red. The berries are left to naturally dry, turning the skin and flesh to a dark brown almost black colour, it is this outer husk that gives pepper its flavour. High quality pepper should have fruity, floral, aromatic notes. The heat intensity and piquancy of pepper comes from piperine, a naturally occurring organic compound within the white seed of the peppercorn. Piperine levels will vary from variety to variety and country of origin.

The pepper with the highest piperine content is from Sri Lanka renowned for its strong, aromatic flavour and heat. It is why we only source our Fairtrade Organic pepper from Sri Lanka- it's the best quality.

Pepper vines can live for up to 70 years and begin to produce fruit after three years. These vines can grow up to an impressive four metres in height, naturally favouring trees such as palms to provide support.

The fruits grow on spikes which usually contain around 30 to 40 peppercorns and are harvested by hand, generally when the peppercorns are green.

The Difference Between Peppers

Just like green and black tea, black, red and green peppercorns all hail from the same plant, it is the processing of them that changes their colour and flavour. Green peppercorns are the youngest and give the mildest flavour. Black peppercorns are dried green peppercorns where the outer skin has oxidised, very much in the same way that green tea turns into black tea.

Sweet, fruity, pink peppercorns are a completely different family, they come from either the Brazilian pepper tree or the Peruvian pepper tree and are a member of the cashew nut family.

Sichuan Pepper is again not a relative of pepper, but from the Prickly Ash family. It is widely used in Asian cooking due to its hot, peppery kick with citrus notes and is a core ingredient in Chinese 5 Spice.