Cyprus is the new found home of the world's hottest chilli according to a report by Cyprus Mail, noting the work of Cypriot chilli expert Vasilis Joseph who is growing a chilli that even beats the Carolina Reaper, widely acknowledged to be the spiciest.
“It’s from Nepal, where they really like their chillies,” he reveals. “But even by Nepalese standards, this variety is acknowledged to be ridiculously hot. You have to remember that while the Carolina Reaper has been designated the hottest chilli in the west, in the east, they don’t really care about the Guinness Book of Records, so not every variety gets a mention!”
“We were given the plant by a friend from Nepal who saw we were growing chillies, and even she didn’t know the name of the variety. But we’ve started propagating it and – my goodness – just thinking about it makes even my eyes water!”
Joseph operates under the name Fire Alchemy by Freya Labs, where he and his wife Greta have been cultivating chillies for several years, hand-rearing each plant and transforming the chillies into a unique product range of fermented chilli sauces and chilli salts, and fresh chilli jams. There are 10 varieties of each, ranging from the palate-teasing Black Bullet Jalapeño to the eye-watering Naga, and what makes them all unique, says Vas, is their simplicity…
“You won’t find mango and passionfruit and guava in our sauces, jams or salts,” he explains. “We’re not into mixing and matching; this isn’t ketchup! Instead we focus on just one chilli variety in each bottle or jar. So you get a very pure, really simple flavour profile that nevertheless packs a huge punch.”
“In 2017, Greta was a corporate lawyer, I ran my own marketing agency, and all was well with the world,” says Vas. “Then, in 2018, I had a horrific car accident that shattered my spine and left me staring at the ceiling for nigh on six months. It made us re-evaluate our priorities: was what we were doing with our lives worthwhile, were we prepared for the future, and what were we really giving back to the world?”
“We’re both still working full-time jobs,” says Vas. “Greta is a lawyer, and I continue to take on marketing clients. But we’re also running our chilli business too! Really, it’s a labour of love; something we do for the community as much as for ourselves. Because one thing we’ve known from the outset is that being a commercial chilli giant is against everything we stand for!”