Hailed as the king of spices, pepper, the most consumed spice in the world, is taken from the berries (or from ‘drupes’ to use its exact botanical name) of the plant Piper nigrum which is native to the Malabar Coast in the Indian state of Kerala. Sri Lanka produces and exports black pepper but Sri Lankan black pepper suppliers satisfy only 2% of the global demand for pepper.
Ceylon Pepper is particularly favoured worldwide as it is quite rich in piperine, the alkaloid which lends it a distinct pungency. As a result, Ceylon Pepper from Sri Lanka fetches a premium price in the international spice market. Black pepper is widely used as a ‘hot’ cooking spice and seasoning. The taste of Sri Lankan black pepper is richly aromatic, with floral and citrus notes, while retaining a strong pungency. Extracts of black pepper – Piperine, oleoresin and essential oil- are also extracted from the whole drupes, and have applications as both spice and flavouring agents in the food industry, and also major industrial applications in the perfumery and the pharmaceutical industry.
Depending on the time of harvest and the post-harvest process, there can be different types of pepper: green pepper, black pepper, red pepper and white pepper. For black pepper, the Piper nigrum berries are harvested when green and slightly immature, then it’s blanched and sun-dried. This makes it very rich in essential oil. The black colour results from the oxidation that occurs during drying.