History of pepper
Did you know pepper is the most commonly used spice in the world? Archeological evidence also suggests that pepper, or Piper nirgrum, has been used as a spice since 2000 B.C., with the spice trade reaching from India to Egypt. Later, Ancient Rome was also a part of the pepper trade, with 80% of Roman recipes containing the spice.
In fact, the spice was so valuable that Arab traders created a fantastical tale about how pepper was grown to keep their trade secure. As the legend goes, pepper was produced in India on trees guarded by poisonous dragons, and the spice must be burned on the tree to kill the serpents, ultimately resulting in black peppercorns. However, after the 14th century, pepper trade had spread to Europe and beyond, with the help of Portuguese, Dutch, and British trade companies.
Where is pepper cultivated?
Today the largest producer of pepper is Vietnam, which is one of the locations where Olam has a farm-level sourcing network. Currently, Vietnam accounts for 34% of the world’s pepper crop, with India and Indonesia following closely behind in terms of production scale. In addition, Olam supplies quality bulk pepper products from Brazil, Indonesia and Cambodia with a state-of-the-art processing facility in Vietnam.
Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is the dried berries of the perennial vine of the family Piperaceae. Black pepper is cultivated in hilly regions of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu & North eastern states. Black pepper takes about 7 - 8 months to reach full maturity after flowering. The harvested berries are piled up in heaps to initiate enzymatic browning that results in oxidation of phenolic compounds by atmospheric oxygen. The berries are detached from the stalk by trashing and allowed to sun dry on flat surface. The drying step reduces moisture and helps avoids mould formation. The uniform colour of the black pepper can be ensured by blanching. The mature berries are dipped in boiling water for a minute before drying.
Dried black pepper mixed with extraneous matter like spent spikes, pinheads, stones, soil particles etc is removed by the mechanical garbling of the black pepper. Mechanical Grading is done by using sieves of 3, 4.5, 4.75 and 5mm size.