Supplier Spotlight

Peppermongers "Cracking Pepper"

Friday, August 16, 2013

Our Story

Alcott & Gibbons


After tasting the world’s highest grade Tellicherry Black Pepper during a trip to Kerala we realised that much of the pepper we’d been used to eating in the UK was bland and often poor quality. A subsequent visit to a small organic pepper plantation in the Western Ghats proved how little we knew about something that we used almost every day back home. Everything from how it grows on the vine to the timing of the harvest and how it is dried and graded has an effect on the quality of the peppercorns that we eat.


We returned home enthused, on a mission to learn more. Further inspired after discovering Long Pepper and Cubeb, both from the same family as Black Pepper but virtually forgotten by western cuisine, we were spurred on to start Peppermongers – a small, independent Pepper specialists with a big ambition: to bring you the best quality Peppercorns from around the world.


Our (pepper) potted history



Summer 1974. It’s hot. There’s a Rumble in the Jungle, Ceefax is invented, Tom Alcott from no.46 and Pete Gibbons from no.45 meet to watch The Muppets. Their friendship grew and continues to grow to this day, despite a low point in ‘76 when Pete pulled the leg off Tom’s toy Kermit. Contrary to popular belief, Tom is not descended from an ape and Pete is not descended from a Gibbon, though he does look like one.



We went to Eastfield Primary, Westfield Junior, St.Ivo comprehensive. We made mash in home economics and were force-fed crispy pancakes for lunch. Aged 14 we set up a picture framing business in Tom’s family garage. Mouldings, mounts, mortar saws and glass were our thing. And plasters. At school we sold printed T-shirts but not very many, and then ran the tuckshop – breaking new ground with the popular introduction of toast (at 95% gross profit).


Husbands and Fathers  

Tom moved to Scotland, joined Outward Bound to climb and mostly slept outside. Pete moved to London, joined a design agency and mostly slept inside. We grew up, slightly. Pete married Heather and together they produced Jack and Eliza, Tom married Katie who bore him Amelia, Reuben and Elodie. All the children are good at filling pepper mills.


In 2005, together with Tom’s wife Katie, we created FRANK Water, the successful, game-changing water charity. We bulldozed our way into the crazy bottled water industry, took the profits and gave them away to build village-run clean water projects in India, winning awards along the way. 100 clean water projects and many visits to India later, the idea of Peppermongers was conceived and, with a gestation period longer than one and a half elephants, a new company was born in 2011.



We are not chefs, just self-taught amateur cooks. We cook because we love food markets, love great food, love to eat and even love to wash up. Sunday lunch is our favourite meal. Christmas is our least favourite; too much pressure, too much of everything.


Tom is half Breton (see picture evidence below, centre, avec les oignons). Family meals in Brittany meant breakfasts that segued into lunches that sequed into dinners. Sleep was just a means to build up an appetite for the next day’s meal marathon.

Pete is 1/8 Irish, has 4 siblings, 26 uncles and aunts, is related to 17thcentury spice traders and a long line of bearded, stamp collecting, wood carvers (possibly).


Pepper is our calling. We beseech you to join us on our journey to make life less bland, more palatable and a lot tastier…

Pepper Primer : Lesson 1. The King of Spices

Pepper is just black, green, white, red and sometimes pink. Right?
Wrong again Mister Bond.
There are literally hundreds of types of peppercorn all with different aromas, pungency, taste & flavours…..

So how much do you really know about the pepper you eat every day?

Do you know where it comes from?
Do you know what a pepper plant looks like?
Do you know which part is pungent, which aromatic?|
Do you know if it’s laced with chemicals or organic as nature intended?
Here’s a starter for 10

Pepper has a terroir, a species and a grade. Now you might realise that green, red, and black pepper are actually all the same pepper (just at different stages of ripeness like tomatoes) and white pepper is just black pepper without the aromatic skin…

Now that your interest is piqued here are
5 More Things You Should Know

1. Pepper is the King of spices. It is the oldest spice, the most important spice and outsells all other spices 10-1.
2. Pepper originates from the Malabar Coast of India but is now grown worldwide with Vietnam, Indonesia, Brazil and of course India being the major growers. You can’t grow pepper in the UK because of the weather.
3. Pepper is graded according to colour eg. Bold or Extra Bold or Extra Special Bold.
4. Pepper is also graded according to size by ‘garbling’ it; Ungarbled, Malabar Garbled No. 1, No.2, Tellicherry Garbled.
5. Tellicherry Garbled Extra Special Bold (TGSEB) is the worlds best pepper and represents less than 10% of the crop (being the larger berries which get more water at the top of the spike)
Big is not always best – but with pepper it is. TGSEB Peppercorns are each 4.75mm in diameter and as such pack more punch and flavour. (while they may seem expensive they also represent great value – since you need fewer of them to flavour a dish…)

Our Range

Tellicherry Garbled Special Extra Bold (TGSEB) is the highest quality black pepper in the world. Only the largest 10% of peppercorns, measuring at least 4.75mm in diameter make the grade. Our organically grown TGSEB Black Pepper is hand-harvested and sun-dried in the hills of the Western Ghats, Kerala, India.

Gustatory guidance:
Rich essential oils give a complex, fruity aroma.

Culinary clues:
Great with sauces, steaks (and chips). Try with cupcakes, meringues and in Bloody Marys. The larger size peppercorns mean fewer go further.


(Piper retrofactum – not to be confused with the Indian variety of long pepper, Piper longum)

Once favoured by the Romans, Visigoths and Alexandre Dumas, Long Pepper has largely been forgotten in modern cuisine.

Gustatory guidance:
Its warm, chocolatey aroma belies a peppery punch 6% stronger than Tellicherry Black Pepper.

Culinary clues:
Crush and grind in a mortar. Perfect for soups, slow cooking or terrines and pâtés. Try mixing with cream and eating with nectarines or summer fruit.

A popular substitute for Black Pepper in the 16th century and a key ingredient in Ras el Hanout.

Gustatory guidance:
A fresh, woody taste and ‘Christmas tree’ aroma that mellows into a unique warmth with a lingering spiciness when cooked.

Culinary clues:
Slow-cook with tagines, soups, pot roasts and North African dishes.

SICHUAN FLOWER PEPPER (Zanthoxylum piperitum)
Known in Chinese as ‘Hua Jiao’ and traditionally used as aromatic confetti, Sichuan Pepper was once given in tribute to the Imperial Court of China.

Gustatory guidance:
Zesty, tangy, lemony flavour, with a mouth-tingling, slow burning, fiery heat that numbs
the lips.

Culinary clues:
Gently toast or dry-fry then crush before adding to stir frys, salads and meats. Great on bacon sandwiches or heated in oil with popcorn.