Cubeb has a lovely aromatic floral quality, no real pepper heat, and a camphor finish. With notes similar to allspice, this pepper works well in vegetable or meat dishes, in cocktails or even in baked goods and other desserts.
Vicious arguments, economics, and trade regulations ensured that cubeb pepper would lose the pepper war to black pepper. Also known as Java pepper and tailed pepper – due to it being native to Java and the berry’s pericarp tapering off into a stubby tail – the cubeb pepper is a little known ingredient that’s slowly being rediscovered by spice enthusiasts.
Barely known in the west, Cubeb has experienced a recent resurgence with spice aficionados as a delightful exotic spice. Also known as Cubeb Berries, tailed pepper, tailed Cubebs and Java Pepper, Cubeb is native to the Spice Islands and is now harvested primarily in Indonesia.
Starting in the 16th century and for the following 200 years Cubeb were a substitute for pepper throughout Europe although they never became as popular as white or black peppercorns. The berries, or fruit, are picked before they are ripe and then dried. When harvested the stalk remains attached hence the frequent reference to “tailed pepper”.
Sophisticated home and professional chefs find Cubebs possess a spectacular flavor intensity and use them for strategic flavoring as they would allspice or cloves. Cubebs have a pleasant aroma that is pungent, lightly peppery with hints of allspice. The flavor is aromatic, pungent with lingering bitter undertones. It is often described as a cross between allspice and pepper. Cubeb berries do possess a bit of heat and are about a 3 on the heat scale of 10.
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