All about black, white and red pepper
To be able to judge whether a pepper is good, you need to know what to look out for. Of course on the freshness, but also on the grain size, the degree of drying, and last-but-not-least the aroma.
But what is pepper? Black pepper is the dried, unripe fruit of a plant with the species name Piper nigrum. Although the species name suggests otherwise, the fruits themselves are not black at all, but green, still unripe, coloring through orange to red, the ripe fruit. If you look closely at a good quality black pepper, you will see that some 'grains' show a red-brown to red glow, indicating that ripe berries have also been processed.
The 'black coloring' of the berries is, as with tea, partly the result of enzymatic oxidation, also known as enzymatic brown coloring. We know this from the brown coloring of bananas, avocados and apples. But the development of black pepper's color and flavor is more complex than that. You get the best result when you blanch the picked berries briefly and mildly and then dry the berries in a controlled manner (for example mechanically).
The pepper market is dominated by black pepper, the pepper of the predominantly unripe berries from large-scale cultivation. There is no room for red pepper here, because the berries on a truss do not ripen evenly. The more unripe the berries, the more certain the harvest, because the longer you let the berries ripen on the plant - they do not ripen - the greater the risk of losing your harvest because berries start to rot. With premium peppers, such as black Penja - up to 70% of the berries on the picked trusses are orange to red, i.e. semi-ripe or ripe, and in some regions, such as Kampot and Phu Quoc, the ripe berries are manually selected for to make red pepper. Delicious !
To produce white pepper, the berries must be peeled. With the traditionally made white pepper, the skins of the berries are soaked loose in water, in running water (a stream) or in barrels. This process is called 'retten'. Depending on the technique used, fermentation takes place or not during retting. After the skins have become detached, they are rubbed off the core and removed.
Ripe berries are traditionally used for a good white pepper. White pepper, which is produced on a large scale, is nowadays also made from the dry unripe berries, whereby the berries are peeled by machine. The skins are then processed into pepper oil or added to a lower quality pepper to form 'fortified pepper' or 'fortified pepper'. This unroasted white pepper appears to be of the same quality, but the aroma is less complex.
In agriculture, the scale on which a crop is grown is considered an important factor for consistent quality and a competitive price, partly due to the ability to apply modern agricultural and processing techniques. For small-scale agriculture, these techniques are only achievable if there is a high level of organisation. Logically, small-scale cultivation is very sensitive to changing circumstances, such as climate change. Prolonged periods of drought, lack of water (lack of rain, dried up aquifers, lakes and springs), unpredictable heavy rainfall, floods and storms. More than ever these farmers need technical help.
Moreover, in order to maintain small-scale agriculture, the organizational structure will have to be improved, for example by setting up corporations and by professionalizing sales. The lack of it is a major reason why agriculture in many developing countries is less productive and rewarding than elsewhere. It is inappropriate for farmers to be robbed of their land, made 'serfs', but the main thing for us is that the farmers must be able to retain their independence.
The pepper market has been in turmoil in recent decades due to the enormous expansion of pepper acreage in Vietnam and Brazil, the latter quickly becoming one of the main suppliers. Market prices plummeted, and - unsurprisingly - many farmers died . In particular, the prices of smaller grains for ground pepper and pepper oil are dramatically low. New plantations focus on the production of larger berries and organic pepper.
In various regions we see with great sadness how big players build on the success of small farmers, such as in Kampot (mainly due to the rise of large organic farming companies), the Cameroonian Penja (emergence of a parallel market) and the Malaysian Sarawak. With regard to the latter, the Malaysian government is encouraging the expansion of pepper cultivation, which is mainly due to larger companies. Money-sent.
We try to deliver distinctive products from smaller companies, often corporations of small family businesses. We see this as a priority for the conservation of biodiversity, the continued existence of small, independent farms, a good income position for the families involved and the local communities, with all the associated benefits.
By purchasing 'made to measure', we guarantee you fresh products. Our pepper smells pleasant and is optimally sharp. To maintain that quality, we advise you to store the pepper in a closed jar, can or bag, ideally in a very cool place. This also applies to all spices.
How do you know if your pepper is good?
By smelling and tasting it. A good pepper smells good, tastes good, and is nice and sharp. An old pepper is not only less aromatic, but also less sharp, because the piperine - the sharp substance in pepper - has been converted over time and certainly under the influence of light (UV) into the virtually odorless and barely sharp isochavicine..