A Reluctant Start
A few months ago, I received an email from my friend Divakar in Kerala, India.
“Mr. Scott, I’ve made a very exciting discovery. I’ve located some of the best pepper in the world and it is just a few hundred kilometers up the road from me in the Wayanad Hills.”
To be clear, I hadn’t requested information on spices. As a former business associate, Divakar and I had developed a long distance friendship. But never had we discussed anything along the lines of organic spices.
“The variety of pepper is called Tellicherry, but not just conventional Tellicherry Pepper, which is already known as the best in the world.”
Interesting, I thought to myself, because I wouldn’t know a Tellicherry peppercorn from a telephone pole.
“I discovered a select Tellicherry Pepper, hand-picked from the largest, plumpest, most aromatic berries in the world. I’d really like to see what you think of this.”
To be honest, at this point I was more in need of smelling salt than organic pepper. Pepper is pepper, I thought to myself. But since I’ve always known Divakar as a man of sophisticated taste and integrity, I couldn’t just ignore my friend.
A week later, a mysterious package arrived on my doorstep. Buried under a heap of crumpled Indian newsprint, I discovered a curious glass jar with a bright yellow lid. It was brimming with coal-black peppercorns. I knew that Divakar would soon be asking to see what I thought about his special pepper. I decided to stage a blind taste test in my home with all of the best national brands to see if I could get some, well, pepper perspective.
During the tasting, it quickly became clear that, pepper is not just pepper.
Distinct differences between the contestants emerged. Sample No. 004 stood head and shoulders above the rest. Tasters described No. 004 with words normally reserved for fine wines like, “best of tasting,” “complex,” “sophisticated,” “fruity” and “balanced.”
No. 004 just seemed to make all other food taste so much better. At the conclusion of the test, my wife revealed the brand names of the pepper. Lo and behold, the dish labeled No. 004 was Divakar’s Organic Tellicherry. I felt a surge of pride that my friend had beaten the pants off the competition. As a tasting thank you gift, I sent both of my brothers-in-law home with small bags of Divakar’s Organic Tellicherry, or as they will always call it, No. 004. Within days, they inundated me with requests for additional supplies. Emails with subject lines like: “Score More Four!” and “Number Four is Number One” started flooding my inbox. I started moving forward a little less reluctantly on The Reluctant Pepper Company.
– Scott Eirinberg, October 2012
Directed by Barton Landsman
Addendum – May 2013 Six months after successfully launching Divakar’s No. 004, pepper soon longed for salt. And other spices. I would not disappoint pepper. The times were a-changin’ and so was my name. The Reluctant Pepper Company officially became The Reluctant Trading Experiment.