peppercorns

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Pepper-Passion
Website: http://www.pepper-passion.com
Black peppercorns reviewed: Malabar, Tellicherry, Sarawak, Lampong, Madagascar, Talamanaca, Vietnam, Kampot, Pohnpei
Cost: Pepper-Passion provided samples for this review.

Pepper-Passion has the most extensive selection of peppercorns of any vendor that I’ve encountered so far.  They have high-quality standard selections, such as Malabar and Tellicherry, along with relatively unknown varieties like Pohnpei and Kampot. Click on the pictures to enlarge.

India Malabar – Medium size, light tan, wide range of colors. Soft texture. Cinnamon and nutmeg notes. Heat is warm and cozy.
India Tellicherry – Medium-to-large size. Uniformly dark brown. Cedar middle notes, becomes slightly bitter toward the end. Light heat.
Malaysian Sarawak – Large size. Array of colors, dark-brown to tan. Light, crispy texture. Bright flavor, slightly citrus. Light heat.
Indonesian Lampong – Small. Black to dark-brown. Slightly soft texture. Bold, peppery flavor. Medium heat.
Madagascar – Small size. Color varies from black to tan. Firm, crunchy texture. Middle notes of pine, followed by other spice notes such as cumin and coriander. Heat develops slowly, provides a lingering warmth.
Ecuador Talamanca - Medium to large in size. Gray to black color. Notes of juniper, slightly tangy taste. Intense heat develops after about 10 seconds. The end flavor is slightly bitter. These don’t have the strong vegetal taste that I’ve noticed in some other Ecuadorian peppercorns.
Vietnam – This is the first time I’ve found gourmet Vietnamese peppercorns. Medium size. Uniform brown. Texture is dense and hard. Average flavor, but the sensation of heat is more in the nose than in the mouth, which makes it a bit unique.
Kampot – Large size. Black and shiny. Dense. Fruity flavor with a slightly bitter finish. Low heat.
Pohnpei – Large and well-formed kernels. Color is deep black-purple. The flavor is floral, almost sweet, with notes of cedar. There is a fair amount heat, which seems to catch in the back of the throat.

Peppercorns were sampled in their raw form. They were also used to season several common foods, ranging from bland (e.g., eggs) to pungent (e.g., andouille sausage, gumbo). Side-by-side comparisons were conducted whenever possible, but with this many peppercorns I had to rely heavily on notes from previous tastings. It was really an incredible opportunity, and a challenge, to compare this many different  peppercorns. A big thanks to Pepper-Passion for making this possible.

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Website: Available at http://www.salsamentum.nl
Pepper reviewed: Parameswaran’s Wynad Black Pepper
Origin: Wynad plateau, India
Cost: €7,75/85 g

Salsamentum recommended this peppercorn when I bought more of my favorite Portuguese fleur de sel. These are single-estate peppercorns, which I’ve never seen before. According to the marketing on the bag, they’re grown organically by Parameswaran on his small estate on the Wynad plateau in India. The bag I bought was labeled by Halen Môn, a British sea salt company, but it isn’t currently available at the Halen Môn website.

This Indian peppercorn is extremely aromatic, with a lingering, slow-burning heat. It has an herby scent, a rich texture, and isn’t overly bitter. The heat is relatively gentle, but it has a strong Tellicherry-like flavor that really stands out. I don’t normally buy such expensive peppercorns because a bag his size is only about a week’s supply, but it was definitely worth trying once. For me, this peppercorn is just too expensive for everyday use.

The Spice House
Website: http://www.thespicehouse.com
Black peppercorns reviewed: India Tellicherry, Indonesian Lampong, Ecuador
Cost: The Spice House provided samples for this review.

All three of The Spice House black peppercorn varieties are top quality, Grade A peppercorns. The peppercorns are nicely shaped, none are broken, and there’s no dust or plant debris.

Indian Tellicherry black peppercorns ($2.99 /4oz)

India Tellicherry

India Tellicherry

The Indian Tellicherry are very large, brown-to-black peppercorns.  The aroma of a ground peppercorn is boldly fruity and floral. They have the most pungent, fruity peppercorn taste among the three samples, but are the least hot and spicy. The heat is lingering and warm, but not biting.  These are the perfect everyday peppercorn.

Ecuador black peppercorns ($5.29/4oz)

Ecuador black peppercorns

Ecuador organic

This is an interesting peppercorn with an unusual flavor profile. The medium-large peppercorns fall somewhere between Tellicherry and Lampong in size. They are a unique greyish-brown color. Each peppercorn has a nib where it was attached to the spike, something I’ve never seen on other types. The aroma is sharp, spicy, and somewhat vegetal.  They have a ton of fantastic peppery heat, with a planty, tangy, slightly bitter flavor. The taste has an almost fertilizer-like overtone that is unique to this peppercorn terroir; the organic growing methods and location of the plantation close to the equator may account for the interesting flavor characteristics. I really love the heat of this peppercorn, but the flavor is not my favorite. Try these peppercorns for a unique flavor that tastes very different than other varieties.

Indonesian Lampong black peppercorns ($2.79/4oz)

Indonesian Lampong black peppercorns

Indonesian Lampong

Indonesian Lampong peppercorns are small, and dark brown-to-black in color. The aroma is sharper, hotter, and less fruity than a typical Indian Tellicherry peppercorn. Lampong peppercorns are picked while very immature, which gives them extra heat. They also have distinct sassafras overtones, similar to Madagascar peppercorns. These are the first Lampong peppercorns I’ve tried, and they’ve replaced Tellicherry as my standard kitchen peppercorns. This is a must-try peppercorn.

sava-pepper2

Black peppercorns, SA.VA. Import – Export, 5 per 30grams.

Black peppercorns are one of my favorite spices. When Edith at SA.VA. Import – Export asked if I would evaluate some fresh spices flown in from Madagascar, I jumped at the chance. SA.VA.’s spices are transported by plane, rather than shipping container. Most spices lose flavor during transit through tropical areas in metal shipping containers.  SA.VA.’s spices are flow in to preserve the intense flavors and freshness.

SA.VA.’s peppercorns are the most aromatic and fruity I’ve ever tried. It’s not as hot or ‘spicy’ as an Indian ‘extra bold’, but it’s significantly more pungent and flavorful. Fresh ground, they have the strong pungent aroma of sassafras oil, probably from a high concentration of  the chemical that makes black pepper tasty, piperonal. Really incredible peppercorns, I can tell the difference that air transport makes. If you like black pepper, SA.VA’s fresh peppercorns are a surprising and unique treat. Highly recommended to any gourmands and foodies out there, this is a peppercorn you won’t soon forget.

Penzey’s Peppercorns (Black)

Black peppercorns are the most used spice in the Western world. I know it’s popular in the vanillareview.com “test kitchen” — we use several pounds a year! Some vanilla plantations also grow peppercorns: Venui Vanilla (Vanuatu), Silver Cloud Estates (India), and Villa Vanilla/Rainforestspices.com (Costa Rica).

If you’ve never tried a high quality black peppercorn, you’re in for a treat. Good peppercorns vary in intensity and flavor, from fruity to hot and spicy (my favorite). This past winter I visited a Penzey’s Spice store and bought three varieties of black peppercorns from India: Sarawak, Tellicherry, and Special Extra Bold.

Sarawak ($4.45/4 oz)

A less-spicy peppercorn. The flavor of this peppercorn, fresh ground, is like the dusty flavor of store bought ground black pepper — a very strange experience. My least favorite, and the last bag finished.

Tellicherry ($3.85/4 oz)

This is a very nice black peppercorn that’s similar to the bulk Indonesian peppercorns from my local Chinese market. Spicy and bold, but nothing exceptional. …second bag finished.

Special Extra Bold ($4.79/4 oz)

Not only are these peppercorns larger than the others, they pack an amazing punch. A bright pepper flavor is accompanied by a distinctly hot peppery spiciness. Dislodging a chunk from your tooth after dinner is an experience unto itself. The “test kitchen” favorite, and my personal favorite. Two ate a quarter-pound in under two weeks.

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