We taste the key brands to get the distinct variations and rate them with tasting results. There’s no lack of places to get your dark pepper from; as one of the world’s most popular spices, it is expanded all across the world’s spice areas, from India to Indonesia to Ecuador and Brazil. We do not talk much about terroir as it pertains to spices, but it is worth thinking about. After all, peppercorns are fruits exactly like grapes, and soil, growing conditions, and variety of peppercorn are going to have an impact on taste profile.
How strong are these flavor differences, and how do they pan out with food? We tasted peppercorns from seven major growing parts to find out. Thisis not a taste test inside our regularsince–we were not looking for the best peppercorns, but rather an attempt to answer those questions, and in so doing put together a casual guide to the fantastic vast world of black pepper.
How to Execute a Pepper Tasting
Each pepper was ground and sampled for both flavor and aroma. You can try tasting spices straight, but it is easy to get palate fatigue. So we needed much warm white rice with our examples, both to make sure they are more accessible to flavor and to observe how the peppers’ distinctions would pan away when consumed with food.
We also invited Lior Lev Sercarz of La Boite Epice to help us out. Lior is a get good at spice blender for a few of the top chefs in New York and around the United States. He seeks out the most obscure substances from the most improbable places to make some incredible blends–if you can get anyone to help you navigate the world of spices, get Lior. Even though ordinary people are amateurs as it pertains to large spice tastings, Lior does this type of thing for his job indeed.
He provided us some standards to keep in mind, both for evaluating the grade of peppercorns in general and their specific flavor differences.
General indications of quality:
- The peppercorns should be considered a relatively standard color, a signature of higher quality and steadier flavor.
- Darker peppercorns are more flavorful.
- Higher-grade peppercorns are usually fresher than their low-grade counterparts.
Tellicherry (origin: India)
Tellicherry peppercorns are like San Marzano tomatoes: they need to come from Tellicherry, a city on the Malabar shoreline of Kerala in India. They are considered a few of the finest peppercorns in the world, and most of the “names” in pepper that individuals are familiar with. Our sample tasted especially lovely, and tasters noted aromas from fruity to grassy to citrus and pine–but the majority of all, a certain dazzling freshness. The sweet, balanced flavor and complex aroma make it a great stand-alone pepper.
Some Records of Caution
These notes should hopefully provide a sense of the variety of taste and aroma that dark pepper offers. However, I wish to make clear that was not an exhaustive tasting: we neither sampled pepper out of every place it is grown up, nor did we have the resources to try multiple examples from the same growing region. So take these notes as a guide and know that your mileage may vary a bit.
What’s the ultimate way to find the appropriate pepper for you? Buy a few small carriers and try them out for yourself.