How well do you know your peppers? Here are 5 fun facts for you:
There are 4 black pepper varieties that are being grown in Sarawak.
They are Lada Kuching, Lada India, Lada Semongok Emas, Lada Semongok Aman. Each variety boast a different taste profile, aroma and heat. Our black pepper of choice is Lada Kuching variety, for it’s balanced profile of fragrance and heat. Working with our pepper farmer, Silan, has enabled us to promote single origin pepper, as he only grows this single variety.
White and black pepper comes from the same pepper plant.
Its final outcome is a result of different processing methods. To obtain white pepper, freshly picked matured green pepper berries is are collected and soaked in running water for 2 weeks to let the layer of outer skin (pericarp) disintegrate. The berries are then washed and sun-dried resulting in the pale berries that we commonly know as white peppercorns. The processing of black peppercorns, in comparison, is a lot simpler; freshly picked green pepper berries are collected and laid out to dry on raised bamboo platforms. The green pericarp of the fresh berries will turn black once dried. Considering the extra work and time required in the processing, Sarawak white pepper fetches a higher price, to commensurate the farmer’s labour.
Generally, Sarawak black pepper is only farmed using conventional methods, that are like “recipes” that the farmers have obtained from the agriculture departments or pepper board. We, however, believe that there’s more artisanry in farming than industrialised methods that solely focuses on yields (specifically weight). Hence, we are working with our farmer to try growing pepper using chemical-free practices and institute a selection process for ripe berries.
Pepper in Sarawak is grown as a commodity.
Farmers will sell their dried pepper to the local pepper board. Usually, farmers do not separate the pepper varieties as they are being remunerated solely on the tonnage of their produce. The pepper board determines the selling price and markets the products to commercial markets.
A decline in prices.
The price of Sarawak black pepper has declined over the years, with competition from Cambodia’s Kampot pepper and an exponentially growing supply of Vietnam pepper in the market. Pepper farmers have been affected with the low procurement price - in some recent months, the price was just at RM7/kg (the historic high was at RM28/kg just 2 years ago!). With our pepper farmer, we are able to work out a floor price of RM20/kg, to guarantee a favorable income for him to continue his trade.
Find out more about our sustainably-grown Sarawak black pepper here: Lada Bihis