There’s pepper and then there’s Cambodia’s Kampot pepper... You might think that the pepper that comes out of shakers and grinders is pretty much the same wherever you go. However, chefs and foodies alike say the delicacy and sweetness of Kampot Pepper puts it in a class of its own. Pepper has always been one of the main industries of the Kampot region of Cambodia. Its flavour and its pugnacity has made it one of the best peppers in the world.
So how did it all begin... Pepper production in Cambodia was described by the Chinese explorer Tcheou Ta Kouan as early as the 13th century. In 1873 war erupted in the Aceh province of Indonesia. Unable to contain the powerful Dutch army the Sultan of Aceh, not wanting to leave his wealth in the hands of his invading enemies, burned down his pepper plantation.
At the end of the 19th century Kampot Pepper witnessed a real ‘pepper fever’ with the arrival of the French colonists. Production was intensified the until the beginning of the next century and up to 8000 tonnes a year was produced. By the middle of the 20th century, Kampot Pepper was at its peak and production stabilized to about 3000 tonnes a year. Towards the end of the century producer families returned to their once abondoned ancestral land and started cultivating their favourite spice again.
In the 1970s the Cambodian pepper industry went into decline due to the Khmer Rouge regime's policies, but today it's experiencing a renaissance as the country reopens to the world.
How is Kampot pepper grown and harvested... The pepper vines take three years to grow to production stage, but they can grow for twenty years if well cared for. After reaching maturity, pepper can be harvested from February through May every year.
The peppercorns are removed from the stem, boiled for two minutes and left to dry in the sun for one week.
Black peppercorns are green when harvested, but they change colour during the drying process.
White peppercorns are black pepper with the skin removed, so they aren't quite as spicy.
Red peppercorns are green peppercorns that have been left on the vine for four months longer.
what makes Kampot Pepper so good... Kampot pepper is very special. It grows well at the foot of the mountains in Cambodia due to the quartz in the soil. The mineral-rich soil and rainy weather in the high-elevation areas near Kampot and Kep are perfect for pepper production.
Kampot Pepper has been designated a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) which is extremely rare for a spice, the PGI designation dictates which plants from the Kampot region must be used to produce Kampot Pepper, which ensures a high, consistent quality. Kampot Pepper also carries the ECOCERT certification, ECOCERT has become a benchmark in organic certification worldwide.