Although it doesn't look like it at first glance, black pepper is as much a fruit as, say, grapes. This means that its flavour is influenced by the conditions in which it is grown and the processes by which it is grown.
As a result, the flavour profile of peppercorns grown in different areas can vary considerably. The layman may find the pepper flavour of each peppercorn more or less identical. However, if you know what to look for when tasting, even those with less than the finest palates will quickly pick up on interesting nuances of flavour.
Where does the tasting begin and where does it end?
If you are tasting pepper, it is a good idea to first look at the Lot number, i.e. the batch of the harvest. This number tells you how fresh the pepper is and where it was grown. If the Lot number is missing from the bag, avoid the pepper. Do you know what exactly a Lot number is and where to look for it? Read our article, in which we go into detail about this great tool for finding quality.
After you open the bag of pepper, look at the colour and quality of the grains. If the grains are crumbling, stale or even mouldy, it is best not to consume the pepper at all. The entire contents of the bag should be uniform in colour. There should be no major differences between the shades.
Remember that with black pepper, the darker the grain, the better the quality. A deep dark colour and a consistent texture without cracks or other optical changes is also proof of the freshness of the pepper.
When tasting the pepper itself, focus on the acidity of the pepper, which should not be dominant at all, but should be slightly present. Black pepper is obtained by drying green peppercorns in the sun, so the acidic notes are present.
Which aroma is spot on?
Strange as it may sound, look for sweet notes in the taste too, and not just in the fruity and fully ripe Kampot red pepper. Even with black pepper, that characteristic pungency should be accompanied by sweet notes. Last but not least, look for citrus, camphor and floral notes in pepper. These are most noticeable in fully matured red pepper, but can also be found in other colours of peppercorns.