Be aware that "Kurata" peppercorns are grown on identical vines to those at Kampot and in a slightly different part of Cambodia. Kurata peppers are genuine Cambodian peppers produced, packaged and marketed in the same was as generic Kampot peppers except that Kurata is a registered brand name. Exactly like varietal grapes grown in different areas on different soils.
Pepper is sun-dried and not machine dried. This ensures the natural flavour is retained and the drying out process is environmentally friendly.
Producers growing pepper today come from several generations of pepper planters. They came back on their land after the civil war and started to farm pepper using their traditional methods inherited from their ancestors.
In the surrounding hills, the elongated fingers of pepper vines rise up once again from the jungle. The plots are grown by Cambodian farmers and
financed by foreigners like Hironobu Kurata, the Japanese owner of Kurata Pepper, Cambodia’s newest foray into organically grown pepper.
The fingers of shrubby vines are covered in pendulous spikes loaded with fresh green berries. The microclimate in the region favours
pepper: densely humid and balmy, with regular, drizzling rain. The manganese rich soil drains quickly, and so, even in a damp year, the pepper needs watering
and regular attention to yield between three to four pounds of pepper per vine. Hironobu Kurata’s path to pepper farming was laced with serendipity.
While posted to Cambodia as a volunteer during the 1993 UN-backed elections, he developed a passion for Cambodian agriculture and wanted to help develop exports.
After some preliminary research back in Cambodia, in 1995 Kurata met Hen Tea, the son of an erstwhile pepper farmer, who has acted as his farm manager ever since.
This year, Kurata’s crop will ripen in late February and will yield between two and three tons of pepper, which Kurata sells to Japanese specialty spice retailers. Cambodia is now producing
about 1,139 tons of pepper, most of which is sold in Vietnam. The pepper revival is slowly progressing, but it is infinitely difficult work.
The black peppercorn is the more flavoursome so just do a taste test and, after asking the vendor is this genuine pepper, chew a peppercorn from different vendors and you will instantly tell the difference.
The white peppercorn is just a hot pepper so do not go "testing" too many of these as you will quickly numb your tongue.
So, with just a little bit of diligence on your part, it's very easy to buy genuine peppercorns in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
For safe transport home, I put mine in to a well dried out empty water bottle. It takes ages to get thousands of peppercorns out of a packed travel bag and clothing if the thin plastic or paper bag bursts!
But don't store in a closed container. Peppers need to breathe and are best stored in a cloth bag of some sort. Black peppers are at their most flavoursome when fresh.
Black pepper is made from the unripe, green berries from the pepper plant. The berries are sun-dried so that the outer green layer of fruit
shrinks over the seed and blackens.
White pepper is made by taking the outer layer of fruit from the seed, instead of letting it dry and blacken.
Green peppercorns are simply the fresh berries, freeze-dried or preserved in brine. The heat from green peppercorns is less pronounced than that of dried.