World Class Pepper Comes From Pohnpei
The mere mention of the words "Pohnpei pepper" immediately gets the attention of people that have been fortunate enough to taste this exquisite spice. Pohnpei (formerly Ponape) is world famous for its peppercorns. In recent years, the pepper has been very difficult to find in any quantity due to almost complete collapse of the entire industry in Pohnpei after the local goverment tried to take control of it. Fortunately, the government has now pledged to a "hands-off" policy and those wonderful peppercorns are once again being exported from the island. We buy our pepper directly from the farmers and share a portion of all sales with them.
Pohnpei Pepper will always be rare
Ninety percent of the world's pepper comes from only four countries---India, Indonesia, Brazil, and Malaysia. Pohnpei will never play in those big leagues; the island has 130 square miles of total area, and only 40 acres is planted in pepper. The Pohnpei Agricultural Station imported 300 rooted pepper cuttings in 1960. The cuttings came from Fiji, but the plant variety originated in Malaysia's Sarawak. They were of a gourmet-quality strain, and they loved life on Pohnpei.
Pohnpei has the perfect conditions for perfect pepper
What pepper vines love might not seem idyllic to people. They need a lot of water---100 inches of rain a year minimum. The rain should be distributed evenly over all twelve months; they don't tolerate a dry season. They also like it hot. An equatorial heat and high humidity suits them perfectly. Pohnpei lies near 10 degrees north; it has only three totally clear days in a typical year, and no dry season.
The story on white and black pepper
In this virtual steambath, Pohnpei pepper vines produce excellent fruit, high in sugar content and volatile oils. Both white and black pepper come from the same plant. For black pepper, the berries are picked when fully grown but still green, dunked in scalding water, then baked or sun-dried until they darken to the proper color. For the milder white pepper, farmers harvest fully ripe red berries. The berries sit fermenting in water for eight days, then have their red skins rubbed off. After being washed and dried, the white peppercorns are also baked or sun-dried, but only until they turn a creamy tan color.