The beauty of really immersing (nerding) yourself into one thing is that it opens up your mind to other things. When you realize the difference between pepper and PEPPER, coffee and COFFEE, Salt and SALT is becomes hard not to be curious about what other choices in our current life also has that huge quality contrast.
- Learnings from the Pepper Quest
As we checked out our webpage yesterday we couldn’t help but laugh. It felt so right. This is exactly where we are supposed to be and it almost feels like we have have been preparing for this moment since we started this journey back in late 2015 with a set of questions;
How is it that pepper, one of our most used and beloved spices, was getting such a bad rep? How come pepper we buy in the store tastes so lame? Why is nobody selling high quality pepper in Sweden? And ultimately where does the best pepper in the world actually grow?
The questions turned into an idea. Maybe we should go find out. Or as the old Swedish saying goes when you politely ask someone to go to hell; Dra dit pepparn växer!! Go to where the pepper grows!!
Well we went. Explored. Observed. Tasted. Coughed. Smiled. Ate. Explored some more. We travelled with a purpose, with questions that lead us down winding small dirt roads through landscapes that left us is awe. These roads led us tosome of the best people we have ever encountered. People we today see as family. Far from hell. More like paradise.
We touched down in Sweden with ****loads of unique single origin pepper. Bags overflowing. Confidence high. The idea had changed. Was there something more here? We shared our treasures with our closest community and realized that yes, we had stumbled upon something so common and known to everyone, yet still something that remained in the shadows. Nobody had tasted pepper that tasted like this. The spice was ready for resurrection.
The idea turned into a passion project. Learning hat on. Reading. Tasting. Cooking. Researching. Including. Sharing. Can we make this into a business? How do we even run a business? And how do we run a business when our closest colleagues are half way around the world and some don’t even speak english? How do we import something from people who have never exported? And how do we include them in the business model so we don’t repeat hundreds of years of abusive history?
We understood very quickly that we wanted to do things differently than the industry at large and that would take time. A lot of time. We wanted to find the absolute best pepper there was. Quality over quanity. We wanted to be closer to our partners and partner farms. We wanted to know where the pepper was grown, when and how it was harvested and processed. We wanted to get to know the farmers we worked with. Who they were, how they lived, what they desired in life. All with the aim to be able to share their story truthfully and pass on their amazing handicraft transparently. It order to do this we needed to shorten the value chain so that we could be a part of it. From farmer to mortar.
One small step after another we started mapping out a path and the idea turned into a company. The Pepper Quest. The network grew. New relations where created. New knowledge acquired. The sourcing continued. If we managed to find the source we knew we would find the answer. Both of us worked other jobs and took what time and money we had to keep pushing. Knocking on restaurant doors, selling on outdoor markets, trying to understand e-commerce. The normal hustle of starting a business.
Harvest in Sichuan, China 2019
After many years of ups and downs we started getting some recognition and all of a sudden pepper was trending on the Swedish food scene. It was being talked about differently. Used differently. Origin and varieties being written out on the menus across Sweden. Once again being held up in the bright shining light that it deserves. It had resurrected.
Great for pepper but not yet great enough for The Pepper Quest. We had come to the realization that in order to tell the full story and present the opportunity for a truly unique culinary experience we needed to pair the pepper with all the other beautiful spices and flavors we had come in contact with. To make a sensational Phò you not only need unique Vietnamese pepper but also the funkiness of toasted black cardamom, the sweetness of mountain cinnamon and the depth of real star anise. To make a real dazzling Sichuanese chili oil single origin Sichuan pepper can only take you so far as it is nothing without Ma La, paring the spice with high quality ErJingTao or Facing Heaven. In cooking the whole is greater that the sum of all its parts.
So we took the quite large step from pepper company to spice company. And then the pandemic hit. How do we now source all of these new spices? The answer as always could be found at the source, with our local partners, at the very heart of our business model. The mutual trust built up after our many years of working together enables them to be sourceres themselves. Adding value to their own enterprise. They are now traveling near and far in their own regions and countries searching for heirloom spices and flavors. Gaining knowledge, experience and rediscovering their own culinary history. This development feels absolutely amazing and we can’t wait to join them as soon as possible.
It is now time to build upon this fundament that we all have created together. But first we need to give thanks to all the strong shoulders we stand upon and the supportive community that have made all of this possible. We want to thank all of you from the bottom of our mortars and grinders. You are the perfect blend of spices that will be devoured for many years to come.
Thank you Lill for the first beautiful illustrations that lived on for many years.
Ivan for all late nights designing all of our prints.
Jonas for our logo.
Fredrika for our new look. We love it! The landscape and the colors feels right and we can now finally start building our company externally the way we want to.
Fanny you saw the uniqueness of our story and made sure we ended up on Swedish Television.
Johan your curiosity turned into a deep dive into the incredible world of pepper and it allowed us to launch a product we didn’t even have yet setting in motion a whole array of new possibilities and challenges.
It was a privilege to be a part of Matlust different courses as well as EWB acceleration program that got us digging deeper into our business model, what we offer and how we can share this better with our community.
Tommi for seeing who we were early on and bringing us into the magic happening at Rutabaga/Mattias Dahlgren. For Marcus who turned our spices into something else over at Frantzen. To Erik who after sending us an email asking where his Sichuan pepper was! We feel the beginning of a blossoming friendship with more collabos on the way. Sebastian who has told us from the very start that the sky is the limit. Kungen over at Warungen Nizar who champions the incredible tastes of Indonesia and really understands the uniqueness of Batak pepper.
To all you food lovers and content makers out there who want to share our story and our products we salute you. Thank you for tasting the difference between spices and SPICES and understanding the importance of this shift in demand for higher quality and consciously sourced produce directly from the source.
Hannes we started with a Sichuanese crayfish feast in the heart of Chengdu and we haven’t looked back since. Thank you for your quest in Mexico and helping us expand our horizon beyond the Atlantic ocean. Really look forward to work closely with you and your new project Kiosko Import the coming years.
Our nomadic allies over at What took You So Long who have followed out journey since day 1. Special thanks Johan and Filippa who took joined on one of our most important quests to date for the Batak pepper and to Johan, Johan and Fanny who are our visual champions. Truly inspirational. The new product pictures are stunning!!!
Where would we be without Mymlan & Surfers who has pushed us in the heavenly direction of authentic Chinese food especially Sichuanese food and produce. What a culinary voyage into the senses it has turned out to be. Big respect to the whole team behind Surfers especially our taste mentor Nilas and Chinese food and beverage specialist Ludde. Your new spot over at Norrlandsgatan has really turned into one of Swedens most exciting venues. Amazing work and so glad to be part of the family.
Kiki, Luot, Lien, Li, Adi and Denis. You and your families are now part of our own. We know we have said it before but this is really just the beginning and there is such an exciting future ahead of us. We are already part of the evolution taking place in the spice industry. We are so grateful that we have the opportunity to do this together with such beautiful souls as yours. Thank you for pulling through these difficult times of the pandemic and understanding that this will take time. Like all good and generative change does. See you soon!
An enormous shout out to our families and close friends who have put up with our ramblings about pepper and spice for many years now. Coming to our rescue when things have been tough. Celebrating our steps forward. Without you we would probably not have held out this long. A special shout out to beautiful Lasätter Gård where we have our storage and packing central.
And finally you, all our customers, who have made all of this happen and are continuing to support the quest.
We look forward to continue this quest together!
Much obliged and with love,
Elsa & Adrian