Red Hot Chilli Peppers also sometimes shortened to “The Chilli Peppers” or abbreviated as “RHCP” are an American rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1983. The band might not be as popular on this part of the continent as it is abroad, but at Worth’s Caffe, chillies are their signature crowd-pullers.
Worth’s Caffe is a Botswana based company that deals in hot chillies of any manner. In an interview with Woman to woman magazine, one of the co-directors of the company Gorata Lees says for them selling and dealing in chillies is not a burning trade at all. “Many people try to go in to the business of selling chillies but you find out that they only do it on a very small scale,” she explains.
She adds a sizeable number of those that attempt this hot stuff as a business are skewered towards the Indian and or other western nationals whose taste for chillies goes back for ages. However, at Worth’s cafe, they are penetrating the other unexplored markets, the ones populated by indigenous Africans whose detest for chillies is as scalding as the product itself. Chilli, or pepper, is a big part of some cuisines around Africa, but for others, even the mildest spice sends people scampering for water.
The chilli pepper is the fruit of plants from the genus Capsicum, a member of the nightshade family that includes tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants. The compound that makes them so spicy is known as capsaicin, a nitrogen-containing lipid related to the active principle in vanilla (vanillin) and has the same effect on our pain receptors as heat.
“Strictly speaking, however, chilli does not really taste hot. Our taste buds respond to salt, sweet, sour, bitter and umami, while chilli offers the sensation of heat. That’s why, when exiting the body, capsaicin has a second opportunity to burn, even though there are no taste buds at its point of departure,” explains Gary Lees another Worth’s Cafe director and husband to Gorata.
According to one pundit in this business, “While capsaicin might set our mouth on fire, it also leads blood vessels to relax, so it could help people with high blood pressure. Prolonged activation of TRPV1 on the membranes of pain and heat-sensing nerve cells also depletes substance P, one of the body’s messenger chemicals. That is why the compound that puts the fire in jalapeños is used as an analgesic in ointments, nasal sprays and patches to relieve minor aches and pains, and the itching of psoriasis.”
“Chillies is good for you if eaten in the right amount,” states Gary Lees. “However, in the meantime, the local market is still in its infancy. I would really like to see us as producers of A-grade chillies in this country, Gorata chips in.”
While many countries across the world consume some dishes that are hot and spicy, there are some that use a higher level of chilli peppers and spices in general. Some countries, such as South and North Korea and Bhutan, incorporate chillies into their daily diet. Other countries, such as India and Mexico, do not eat as much hot and spicy foods but still have a lot of dishes that incorporate chilli peppers and other ingredients that give heat.
Gorata says one added advantage of getting into the chilli business for a country like Botswana is because of its arid climate. “You can make money with this drought resistant plant that any other plant,” she advices. She also dreams of a period where all growers and traders in the chilli business come together and paint the market in red, hot chilli peppers.