Here are the ways you can use to determine the black & white pepper quality.


Smell. If the aroma is weak, it is a sign of poor quality. The pepper berries have been kept for too long, its volatile oil has depleted.

Also, watch for the smell of mold. The pepper has been kept in the wrong condition, allowing mold to grow. The affected pepper should be not be consumed.

For white pepper: it may have a musky odor. Not because the white pepper goes bad, is because the white pepper is soaked in closed water. The aroma is unpleasant. Hence, the musky-odor white pepper is low-grade pepper. White pepper that is soaked in the running stream has no bad odor, its smell is pleasant.

High-grade pepper has a sweet scent. It is an indication that the berry is more mature.


If it lacks the pungent peppery flavor, it is a sign of poor quality. The piperine, which contributes to the pungency of pepper is lacking.

Take a biting test at the pepper berry, if the berry feels soggy, it is an indication that the berry has a lot of moisture. Excess moisture will alter the taste in the long term (due to enzymatic and chemical reactions) & reduce the shelf life of the pepper (due to microbial activity).


High-grade Black pepper appearance characteristics:

  1. should have its pericarp nicely intact.
  2. the pericarp color shouldn’t be pale, it is an indication that the pepper is not fresh or too dirty.
  3. shouldn’t have tiny white spots on the pericarp, it is an indication of mold.
  4. the seed shouldn’t be too small, damaged, or broken.
  5. the bigger the berry, the better, it is an indication that the berry is more mature.
  6. shouldn’t have holes that were eaten by insects.
  7. should be free of any other foreign matter like stalk, debris, leaf, etc.

White pepper appearance characteristics:

  1. the skin should be bright in color, the brighter, the better, for consumer acceptance.
  2. low amount of black seeds (the black pericarp that is not completely removed).
  3. same as no. 4,5,6&7 of the high-grade black pepper appearance characteristics that I have mentioned.


Good quality pepper is heavy. Heavy pepper usually means it is more mature, it has a more caramel-like aroma & well-balanced pungency (not overly spicy). Most traders are using the bulk density to determine the grade of pepper. High-grade peppers are more than 580g/L in bulk density.

And also, good quality pepper is hard, shouldn’t break apart easily when pressed with fingers. If it breaks, it is considered light berries. Light berries are the berry that matures but failed to develop the seed inside (empty inside or very lightweight).


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