Tellicherry Peppercorns vs. Regular Malabar Black Pepper – What's the Difference?

Posted on January 03, 2019 by Scott Eirinberg

Before The Reluctant Trading Experiment, I didn't know a Tellicherry peppercorn from a telephone pole. But I've learned a lot, so I thought I'd do a little peppercorn pontification now and share the knowledge.

Setting the Record Straight on Tellicherry

So what is the difference between Tellicherry peppercorns and regular black pepper? Actually, there's a lot of misinformation out there on the topic. Curiously, some websites state that Tellicherry peppercorns come from the city of Tellicherry, India. Not true. It has nothing to do with the place that they come from. Other sites say that Tellicherry peppercorns are left on the vine longer. Nope. Not true either. They're left on the vine the same amount of time as regular peppercorns.

Curiously, some websites state that Tellicherry peppercorns come from the city of Tellicherry, India. Not true. It has nothing to do with the place that they come from.

I think all of these misunderstandings came about because many spice companies don't import their spices directly from India like The Reluctant Trading Experiment. They buy from middlemen, distributors or spice brokers. They're thousands of miles from the action and don't really know the answers, so they look it up on the web. Unfortunately, they have no way of fact checking.

At Reluctant Trading, we import our Tellicherry peppercorns directly from my friend Divakar in India. He (Telli)cherry picks the best peppercorns from the farms on a regular basis. I've visited the farmers in Kerala and learned all about peppercorns. So when you're at your next cocktail party and the popular subject of peppercorns comes up, you'll be armed and prepared for the spicy discussion. 

My pal Divakar showing me the jungles of Kerala


Tellicherry Peppercorns and "regular black pepper" both come from the exact same vine. (And for that matter, so do green and white peppercorns, but that's another subject for another blog post.) All are the species called Piper Nigrum.

At the end of the growing season, in February and March, the pepper fruit is picked from the vine. The pepper is dried over a series of days and eventually shrivels and turns into what we know as black peppercorns. All of the peppercorns are then shipped to "garbling" facilities. These are places that sort the peppercorns by size and then bag them. The sortation machines have several different large flat metal screens with thousands of identical holes in them. The machines shake the peppercorns so that the smaller peppercorns begin falling through the screens. The smallest peppercorns fall to the very bottom screen. Once sorted, the various peppercorn sizes are called different things and sold for different prices.

So a Tellicherry peppercorn is actually determined by size. When a black peppercorn is 4.25 mm pinhead or larger, it's "Tellicherry." That's all there is to it. Because Tellicherry are so much bigger than the other peppercorns, they make up a much smaller percentage of the crop. Oftentimes they represent 10% or less of any given harvest. There's less of them, so command a higher price at market. 

There's actually another size class of Tellicherry peppercorns. When the peppercorns are 4.75 mm pinhead and above, they're called Tellicherry Special Extra Bold Peppercorns. That's what we sell. Shop The Reluctant Trading Experiment Tellicherry Special Extra Bold Peppercorns

Reluctant Trading's Special Extra Bold Tellicherry Whole Black Peppercorns


So is bigger really better? And if regular black pepper is less than 4.25 mm pinhead, what's the taste difference between the two varieties?

Well, I'm glad you asked. And I'm glad that you're still awake because you've made it this far in the blog post. (And you are definitely NOT a pinhead.)

As peppercorns grow larger, they lose a little heat. But, with less heat comes a bigger aroma. So the bigger the peppercorn, the more fragrant. There's more room inside the peppercorn for good stuff to happen. More starches. 

Farmer picking peppercorns in India for Reluctant Trading

Our Reluctant Trading Signature Peppercorns are medium hot. They definitely have the heat you'd expect from pepper, but they won't have you running for water to put out the fire. We think they're perfectly balanced.

Our Tellicherry has strong lime, lemon and orange notes. When you grind our Tellicherry, the citrus aroma is immediate and beautiful (if we don't say so ourselves). That's what grabbed me the first time I tried our Tellicherry peppercorns. It was the beautiful and fragrant Tellicherry scent that led me to start Reluctant Trading. If you don't believe me, watch the video.

Just to ensure that the our pepper remains as beautiful, complex and fragrant as possible, we don't buy from middlemen or store ours in huge warehouses. My friend Divakar buys right from the farms and ships straight to me. I ship right to you. We turn our inventory constantly, so nothing gets stale. A lot of "regular black pepper" is bought by the container load and ends up sitting around warehouses for years. It's less fragrant to begin with and whatever aroma is left, dies over long periods of time in poorly climate controlled warehouses.

When it comes to Tellicherry Peppercorns vs. Regular Black Pepper, Tellicherry wins every time.

Now that you know the difference, why not try Reluctant Trading's Tellicherry peppercorns and see for yourself?

Shop our Tellicherry Peppercorns

"The Reluctant Trading Story"
(Check out Reluctant's Tellicherry Peppercorns.) 
Directed by Barton Landsman


I Swear I Didn't Write These Reviews! Tellicherry Peppercorns

Posted on September 12, 2017 by Scott Eirinberg

About a year ago, I started asking our customers to write reviews about the products that they bought from us. I figured it might be a good idea to let people know what others thought about our stuff rather than just blabbing about it myself.

Sure, I expected people to be satisfied and say nice things. After all, we are incredibly picky about the quality of the products that we sell. We are proud to supply some of the top restaurant chefs from around the country. But the thing is, you never really know what people are going to say when you give them the opportunity.

Please believe me when I tell you that I SWEAR I DIDN'T WRITE ANY OF THESE REVIEWS! (And no, neither did any of my friends or family. Though some of these customers have become my friends since writing these reviews!)

At the time of this post, we had 90 reviews of our Tellicherry Peppercorns. 98% of the reviews gave us 5-Stars.

Our Tellicherry Peppercorns have received over 98% 5-Star Reviews. And I swear I didn't write any of them!

Here are just a few of the reviews - you can check out the rest of and visit here to buy the Tellicherry Peppercorns.

Reliable and High Quality So glad I took a chance with your company. This was not my first order and I will remain a loyal customer. The quality of your products is top notch. I have also recently recommended you to a friend. Keep up the good work.

Delicious Experience Everything about the order experience was delicious...from the appetizer (the purchase) to the main course (the delivery of an unbelievably aromatic flavorful black pepper) to the dessert (the friendly customer service). We will definitely be back to order more in the future!

The best ever!!! I cannot live without these peppercorns!! I have a life before these peppercorns and a life after these peppercorns. There is no going back to by unfulfilled life.

Dancing the Peperana! Unless you have ordered from the Reluctant Trading Company (RTC) before, you simply don't know what to expect. Quick, friendly service with a touch of humor. But that isn't the reason I came back. RTC has, simply, the best pepper available on the face of the earth. If you enjoy wine, you will enjoy the nuances of this pepper! Layers of fragrance...not just pepper, but flowers, fruits, chocolate and more developing as you inhale. The same on the palate: Layers of flavor which keep on developing... not just heat, but flavors that I didn't even know that pepper was capable of imparting, and don't know how to describe. And, all of that without any elbows or other sharp objects poking you along the way...perfect balance. Literally, anything that can be improved by the use of black pepper, can be raised a couple of notches with the Tellicherry Pepper from RTC. If you have purchased their pepper before, you already know all of this. If you haven't, please add this incredible pepper to your culinary arsenal.

The Tellicherry Peppercorns are Amazing! I spent quite a bit of time researching different sources of these large Tellicherry peppercorns. The ones from The Reluctant Trading Experiment cannot be beat and the value is fantastic. The aromas and taste are amazing.

This is what our fresh peppercorns look like right off the vine.

Not a foodie, but I like pepper I am most decidedly not a foodie. I don't spend lots of time in the kitchen preparing fancy food. I don't live in a area with fancy restaurants, and have never been inclined to spend bank on fancy food. This was the first time that I spent what I considered a lot of money on what was arguably "just seasoning." I have found these peppercorns to be noticeably better than any others that I have put in my pepper mill at home. The flavor is fresh, and the aroma also noticeably stonger. I also love the story behind DIVAKAR'S NO. 004, which is ultimately why I purchased from The Reluctant Trading Experiment. I will be giving small amounts of these excellent peppercorns with pepper mills I am currently making as gifts for my friends. I'm sure they will also notice the difference.

Who knew peppercorns mattered so much?! I bought Tellicherries (Divakar's No. 004), and the cool chemist bottle to keep some by the stove. I admit, I didn't realize what a difference good pepper made when it comes to cooking, or just brightening up a meal. These Tellicherries are amazing! They're smoky and complex and not at all bitter. The price is right, and the service is prompt, courteous, and delivered with a sense of humor. I had an all around positive experience with this purchase. I will definitely buy again, and I'm telling all my foodie friends and locavores to do the same!

Click to shop our Tellicherry Peppercorn Collection

Upon receiving the Tellicherry Black Whole Peppercorns, Divakar's No. 004, Restaurant Variety from Reluctant Trading, I held a double blind head to head comparison between it and the Spicy World Peppercorn (Whole)-Black Tellicherry sold on Amazon, Turns out the reluctant Trader Variety is so much better it was no contest...... WHAT AN AROMA!!!! The Divakar's No. 004, Restaurant Variety runs half again the cost of the Amazon Spicy World, but the difference in flavor and aroma is WELL worth it!

Great Service, Better Peppercorn I've placed two orders so far with The Reluctant Trading Experiment and each time my order arrives quickly and packaged well. I couldn't be happier. The search for great peppercorns is what lead me to TRTE and I was floored after receiving my first shipment. The peppercorns are unbelievably fresh and are of a true Tellicherry variety. These large peppercorns have a softer pepper bite, that allows a beautiful citrus quality come to the forefront. I will be a life long customer.

Pazzzow. This is some amazing pepper! Not to mention, I had more fun with this whole experience than I have had with any other purchase. Ever. Who thought buying a common spice would be such fun? You've got a beautiful website with a wonderful backstory. I even bothered to snoop around your blog, which again is a first for me. I like your style, and really appreciate all the love that you're putting in to the business! Keep it up Scott, looking forward to buying from you again.

Our Tellicherry Peppercorns are large, fresh and super fragrant.

Here's where you can shop our Tellicherry Peppercorns fresh from India. 

Click to shop our Tellicherry Peppercorn Collection

Bon Appétit Names Reluctant Trading a Top Specialty Food Retailer

Posted on June 22, 2017 by Scott Eirinberg

Bon Appetit Names Reluctant Trading a Top 10 Online Specialty Food Retailer


We're thrilled that Bon Appétit just named Reluctant Trading Experiment a "Great Online Specialty Food Retailer." 

Award-winning Portland Chef Bonnie Morales of Kachka called our hand-picked Tellicherry Peppercorns "the best you can get." And Chef Morales goes on to praise our fresh Turmeric too. 

Bon Appétit sites our "outstanding" Masala Chai which was previously written about in a Bon Appétit chai feature titled "the best you can buy."

In addition, our Icelandic Sea Salt, Green Cardamom Pods, Black Cardamom Pods and pepper mills

We couldn't be more thrilled and excited to be recognized by the critics at Bon Appétit. Trés bon!

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