Is the Naga Viper the world’s hottest pepper?
*UPDATE 12/15/10* – The Chile Pepper Institute responds to the Naga Viper claims.
*UPDATE 12/10/10* – University of Warwick (lab that HPLC tested the Naga Viper) Response to Naga Viper Testing
The mainstream news wires have finally gotten word about the Naga Viper. The chile that our friends over at The Chile Foundry told you about BACK IN OCTOBER! Everyone is making a huge fuss about this being the new world’s hottest pepper, but is it really? In a word; maybe.
Now don’t get me wrong. Gerald Fowler (the creator of the Naga Viper) has done an amazing thing. He has created a hybrid pepper that has a higher Scoville rating than any chile ever tested. However that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the OVERALL hottest pepper in the world. Please allow me to explain.
The most common method of Scoville testing currently is HPLC (High-Performance Liquid Chromatography). It is an unbelievably accurate way of testing the amount of capsaicin in just about any spicy food. However there is a flaw in how the majority of inexperienced HPLC labs report the results. They normally only report the highest Scoville rating found in the test. Which for a pepper isn’t a very accurate number of its total heat.
In order to understand why that number isn’t completely accurate, you need to understand the anatomy of a chile pepper. Thanks to Michael Hultquist (author of Jalapeño Madness), we can take a look at the guts of a jalapeño:
HPLC testing requires the substance to be tested is dehydrated (since they’re testing parts per million in water). That means a live pod must be dehydrated, ground into a powder, and then test what’s left. During testing it would make sense to focus the placenta since you will get the hottest results, and I would wager that’s what happened here. Now I’m not saying that the lab results of 1,349,000 Scoville Heat Units (or SHUs) for the Naga Viper are inaccurate, but you have to question such a huge jump (almost 300,000 SHUs) over the previous record. Unfortunately for the Naga Viper, if it is going to defeat the Infinity Chile (approx 66,000 SHUs hotter than the Bhut Jolokia) for the world’s hottest, then they will have to establish a Guinness World Record. Guinness requires testing of the whole chile (not just the placenta), and testing of multiple pods to establish an average Scoville rating. If the Naga Viper is certified by Guinness that it’s the hottest, then I will be first in line to congratulate Gerald on his accomplishment.
Now all this assumes the current tests are accurate and legitimate. If you ask American chile grower Jim Duffy you will hear a different story.
I will update our site as this story unfolds.