20.2.2023 Article

For over a century, the Paulig-owned Santa Maria brand has served as a seal of quality for spices. Branka Veljovic, sometimes referred to as the “queen of spices”, has travelled the world for over 20 years to find the finest raw material. And the most legendary of them all? The king of spices: Tellicherry Black Pepper.   

Is there really a difference between spices and spices? The answer is a resounding “yes” if you ask Branka, or the “spice queen” as she is sometimes called. 

- You might think that spices are a generic product, but that’s far from the truth. How the spice is grown and processed affects the taste and quality, but also the amount of spice needed. If you prioritize quality, you need less spice, says Branka. 

Collage of Branka Veljovic, spices in a drawer and black pepper corns

At Paulig, audits and quality checks take place throughout the value chain, from farm to plate. The spice is felt, squeezed, and smelled. The supplier must comply with the company’s code of conduct and audits are carried out on the working environment, working conditions and human rights, among other things. Relationships with suppliers are essential.

- We prioritize long-term partnerships with reputable suppliers. We have worked with some of them for generations. To minimize the risk of contamination with twigs or leaves, we never buy from spice markets and we use whole spices as much as possible. It gives us more control over the ingredients, says Branka. 

Black pepper in production

Paulig has spice factories in Sweden and Estonia. Cleaning, sorting and quality analyses are carried out here. Grinding the spice just before packaging releases the flavour at just the right time.

We go where the pepper grows

If there’s a king on the throne in the world of spices, it’s black pepper. Like wine, this spice takes on a different character depending on climate and soil. And the finest grows in Kerala, in southern India. 

- Tellicherry, which is the black pepper used by Santa Maria, is considered the world’s finest black pepper. It is grown in a tropical climate, at an altitude of 3,000 metres, and gets its great taste from the red soil from which the pepper vines grow, says Branka.

Black Pepper farming in Kerala in India

But the place of cultivation is not enough to classify the pepper as Tellicherry. The grains must also be large enough and have the right amount of essential oil, which gives the pepper its flavour, and the right amount of piperine, which is what gives the pepper its heat.

- 4.75 millimetres is the magic number it needs to pass. And for us, nothing else will do, smiles Branka, who is about to pack her bag for new spice adventures.

Did you know? 

Superior Taste Award

Santa Maria’s Tellicherry Black Pepper (Extra Fine Selection) has received the prestigious Superior Taste Award's highest ranking, globally recognized as a stamp of excellence that celebrates the highest quality and taste.

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