A cursory YouTube search for the Carolina Reaper chilli pepper is a curious exercise in Schadenfreude, which is a German word defined as “pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune”.
However, the demand for extremely hot peppers is clearly there with last year’s launch of the Komodo Dragon pepper at Tesco proving a hit with shoppers.
Now the retailer has upped the ante with the Carolina Reaper going on sale today.
In a release, Tesco highlighted the pepper was the hottest in the world according to the Guinness Book Of Records, measuring an average 1.5 million Scoville units, but another independent test recorded last year registered a Carolina Reaper grown in Bedfordshare as reaching a mouth-numbing 2.2 million Scovilles.
To give some idea of the phenomenal heat – it is about more than 400 times hotter than a jalapeno, the chilli pepper commonly used on spicy take away or supermarket made pizzas.
“The Carolina Reaper is absolute meltdown material – it’s one for absolute hot food connoisseurs,” said Tesco chilli pepper buyer Phoebe Burgess.
Tesco said the pepper still had a wonderful fruity taste despite it being astonishingly hot, suggesting only a sliver is needed to add exciting flavor to a curry.
“Last year the Komodo Dragon became our most popular chilli pepper ever and since then we’ve been inundated with requests from customers to see if we could go one better and thanks to the fantastic growing skills of our chilli producer we’ve done that,” Burgess said.
The Carolina Reaper is being grown by the UK’s largest producer of chilli peppers, Salvatore Genovese whose seven acre farm is based in Blunham, Bedfordshire.
Genovese only started growing chilli peppers 15 years ago after he took over his parents’ cucumber business.
Since then chilli peppers have become so popular that he now grows about one million, or 15 metric tons (MT), each week just to satisfy U.K. demand.
“Chilli pepper culture has become very popular in the UK over the last five years and on the back of the acclaim I’ve received from supplying Tesco I now get requests from all over the world,” Genovese said.
“The fantastic success of the Komodo Dragon proved that Brits are among the world’s greatest lovers of chilli peppers.
“But I wonder if the Carolina Reaper will test British palates just a touch too much?”
Tesco has become well-known for its top of the heat range chilli peppers and over the last few years has stocked the Trinidad Scorpion, Bhut Jolokia and Bedfordshire Super Naga.
The trend runs in parallel to similar demand seen across the Atlantic Ocean in the United States, where consumers are also jostling to test their palates with the world’s spiciest peppers.