Tellicherry Pepper & Malabar Pepper, what is the difference?
Updated: Aug 21, 2021
Tellicherry Pepper and Malabar Pepper are two trade names of Pepper Variety that hail from the South Indian States of India, mostly Kerala and Karnataka. They are purely differentiated by size and with that comes a bit more differences and not just the size.
Pepper is grown in mostly all native household for some extra income for the family. Even natives of Malabar might not have known about these Trade varieties like Tellicherry and Malabar Pepper. Not many are aware of what is the core difference between these two Geographically indicated pepper categories, and finally end up making stories like Tellicherry pepper is a variety that come from an old port town called Tellicherry (Thalassery in local language of Malayalam). Since I told Thalassery and if you did not know, Thalassery is the land of Cakes, Cricket and Circus located in North Kerala (Malabar). I shall write for you about this latter.
Black pepper becomes black when it is sun dried until it turns from green to black, later it is graded into different categories. They are called garbled and ungarbled, essentially garbled Black Pepper is a graded pepper where you get to see only pure black peppercorns, ungarbled pepper is a whole bunch of sun dried peppercorns of various sizes and the color varies from pitch black to variations of brown color, you get the garbled one in your stores. Ungarbled I guest mostly goes for value addition like converting it into pepper powder or use it for some other preparation.
Even though there are 12 native varieties of Pepper in Southern India, there are way too many varieties available today. As a final product, the variety of the pepper plant is irrelevant, however, it is considered that black pepper from the Southern India – The Tellicherry Pepper and Malabar Pepper is spicier than other varieties of Pepper found elsewhere in the world.
Almost 70 percent of peppercorns produced in India is exported to various countries. Pepper is considered to be the King of Spices and has applications in almost all cuisines across the world. Exporters generally grade it into different size categories like 3.5, 3.8 and 4.8 mm and export based on the size category.
Two prominent trade names of Pepper that comes from India are the Tellicherry pepper and the Malabar Pepper. Many people get mistaken for its name as Tellicherry is a town in North Kerala or Malabar is a region that comes within the Indian state of Kerala. But the reality is that they are named after the size, however, there is a Geographical indication for both these trade names. It originates as a chance seedling in a geographical region that now forms part of the present day state of Kerala in India. By a Geographical indication, it refers to that peppercorns are grown and harvested from Kerala, it could be anywhere in an around Kerala, that includes Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu; essentially southern India.
Tellicherry pepper has been segregated into three sizes, they are
1. Tellicherry Garbled Special Extra Bold (TGSEB) – 4.75 (millimetres) 2. Tellicherry Garbled Extra Bold (TGEB) – 4.25 (millimetres) 3. Tellicherry Garbled (TG) – Size – 4 (millimetres)
Malabar Pepper is also segregated into 2 different sizes Malabar Garbled I (MG1) & Malabar Garbled II (MG2)
During earlier days Pepper vines were found from the forests of the Western Ghats and by due course of time, it became cultivations considering the demand it possessed. The native variety has been generally maintaining a very average size of Pepper, it was more like a mixture of multiple sizes that consisted of a batch. Pepper research has given way to more hybrid varieties of Pepper that produce larger sizes of Peppercorns. For Example, the hybrid variety of Panniyur 1,2 & 5 would have a larger number of bigger size of peppercorns, the expected percentage of large peppercorns can come up to thirty-three percent.
Any peppercorn that comes above a size of 4.8 mm of size can be categorized as Tellicherry Garbled Special Extra Bold (TGSEB), and a variety named Shubhakara has the highest percentage of TGSEB from a harvested batch (this is too much technicality which is on us), it can go up to thirty-three percent. Tellicherry Garbled Extra Bold can be any size from 3.8 to 4.2 – 4.5 mm. Tellicherry Garbled can range from 3.5 to 3.7 mm in size. Malabar Garbled 1 & 2 is below 3.5 mm in size, Malabar Garbled 2 can go even far below. Generally all these technicalities don’t matter as far as you get what you expect the pepper to do, I mean when it comes to you from us, I believe it would go beyond expectation.
Even though we segregate black peppercorns in terms of size, the demand is considered based on different dimensions of the requirement. Pepper cannot be always considered that it is for the dinner table, there have been multiple industrial uses for Pepper. Malabar Garbled is the most exported quality of Peppercorn. Oleoresin and Piperine concentration would be more in lesser sizes of Peppercorns, that could be one reason why Malabar Garbled is very much in demand and preferred by exporters. The Malabar Pepper could be considered as one of the spiciest peppercorns in the world.
In essence, both Tellicherry Pepper and Malabar Pepper are named and segregated purely based on the size of the Peppercorn and not on the basis of its distinct quality of the peppercorn. However, there are more elements that are taken into consideration by buyers of Pepper, whether they are organic or not, based on the concentration of their components like peperine & oleoresin, and a lot more details. But since it is a larger topic, I think I should be writing another blog post about all of those factors.