White Peppercorn from Penja
It’s interesting, the whole concept of terroir. It’s traditionally used when describing wines (and sometimes coffee and tea) to paint just how the land, the environment, and the climate all affect its flavor and characteristics. But, to me, terroir works for so much more than that and can be applied to many different parts of the culinary world – produce, mushrooms, dairy and cheeses, meats and even, like in the case of this pepper, spices.
While most peppercorns are grown in South Asia (India, Sri Lanka), Malaysia, Sumatra, Indonesia or even Vietnam, this white pepper comes from Africa, a small, populated area in Cameroon called Penja actually. Penja has a monsoon climate, warm and humid, and its soil is high in volcanic material. Peppercorns are grown in this region, and the Penja white peppercorn specifically has become a standout in the culinary world for its incredibly distinct flavor, which is largely attributed to its unique terroir…
Now, Sarawak peppercorns from Malaysia are thought to be the best white peppercorns out there – hot, woody and pine-like. But white peppercorns from Penja are milder, with a floral bite, musky and not a ton of heat. After picking these up on my latest spice hunt (in the city…), I envisioned coarse grinding these over oysters, to flavor a béchamel or a simple piece of fish. I think it complements mild, creamy textures where the spice can really do its thing.
The downside to these guys is that there is very limited production in this region, so it’s not so easy to find…the usual online purveyors do carry it though!