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Chili tasting (party!)

Updated: Jun 27, 2019

Perhaps the best way to enjoy chilies is to have them with others. Eating spicy is good always, but in a good company it's even better!

Why would anyone in their right mind subject themselves to extreme pain? I hear this question a lot when talking about chili parties. The answer is, most people are curious and have some sense of adventure in them. They want to have peak experiences, taste of maximum life!

It's definitely a sport that everyone wants to do, so there should be no pressuring to participate! I perceive these events to be more of a learning experience that give participants the chance to overcome their fears and experience something new extreme!

There's also a social element - we did it together, endured it and had fun! Pretty much like any other sport, right?

There's also the element of actual tasting. People often find it very interesting that even the hottest of chilies have very different tastes. Some are very delicious and make an excellent spice for the kitchen!

Ok then! Let's go to the setup next!



Setting up is very simple, you don't need much to have a chili tasting party! You'll find everything you need in any kitchen. Here's a list of gear that you need to have:

  1. Various types of chilies of different spiciness levels

  2. A sharp knife

  3. Marker pen

  4. Paper plates or office paper. You can also make it fancy by having a serving tray or something similarly flashy to serve the chilies on! Sheet of a paper on a tray would serve well!

  5. Latex gloves (optional, for extra careful personalities)

  6. Water, milk, ice cream or whatever cooling you want to serve the participants when they taste the hottest peppers. (Hint: Nothing really helps besides washing the mouth with something oily!)

  7. Bucket or napkins - if participants want to spit it out!

It's really as simple as that! Nothing complex needed!


Rules of engagement

  1. The leader of the event explains everyone how the event will proceed.

  2. Make sure that each participant has eaten a meal before participating. No super hot chilies to empty stomach! You don't want people to curl up on the floor holding their belly!

  3. Put the drinks and pre-cut peppers on the table. Mark the names of peppers and their Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) numbers next to those peppers.

  4. Cut evenly sized chili pieces on plates. Make slices starting from the stem of the pepper all the way to the tip. This ensures everyone gets an evenly hot experience. Note, some peppers have more heat around the stem near the seeds and less heat near the tip of the pepper.

  5. Explain how the SHU heat units work: A panel of tasters evaluates the heat grade of different pepper types. The peppers get their heat rating from there. For example, a padi chili could be around 70.000 SHU whereas Carolina Reaper is around 2.000.000 SHUs. Use google to find the appropriate SHU values for the peppers.

  6. Inform people that the spiciest chiles are so spicy that people with health problems like severe asthma or heart problems should not participate. Or if they do, it's on their own risk. Very spicy chilies can induce asthmatic reactions or heart palpitation on some people. It is similar effect to doing heavy physical exercise. Participants should know their physical limitations.

  7. Everyone must participate and proceed without pressuring. This is a rule that needs to be told openly. No group pressure! This is because everyone joins in voluntarily accepting any consequences, including extremely burning painful sensations! You don't want it to be unpleasant to anyone.

  8. If you're doing a corporate or similar official event it might be a good idea to have the waiver of responsibility in writing from participants. This is legally wise, but also builds up the expectation and excitement of the crowd!

  9. Everyone takes turns, tasting chilies from plates in order. First the participants try the least spicy peppers, proceeding to spicier ones when the leader tells them it is time to do so.

  10. You can invent little games or tasks to be done throughout the tasting, for example:

  11. Ask participants to describe the burning sensation, compare the taste and tell difficult verbal comparisons when they're experiencing the heat. Hilarity ensues with all the huffing and puffing!

  12. Or maybe you want participants to sing, recite a funny poem, or make estimations on the spiciness of the chili in numbers. Your imagination is the limit!

Image below shows the comparative heat levels for many different pepper types. Don't make people start from the hottest ones! After eating the hotter peppers they won't feel a thing when they try the mild ones.

Comparative SHU heat levels for different types of peppers.


Handling drop-offs

People often want to drop off from tasting at some point. Please allow them to drop off, and follow the tasting from the sidelines. They may have quite a bit of fun seeing how others react to hotter peppers.

People feel sometimes that they need a break or that they want to drop off. Let them take their time!

Quite often when their burning sensation subsides and they see that others are eating hotter peppers they want to get back to the game! Please allow the re-entry to the arena. This is about giving experiences to the audience!

Try to find a number of chilies that are of different sizes, colours and heat levels. More the merrier!

Having many different chilies on the table gives colour and content to the tasting event!

Start with the less spicy chilies, perhaps something like a chili padi (bullet chili) in this image. With 50.000 SHUs it should be doable to just about anyone.

Chili padis are commonly used in cooking because most people can handle their heat. They come in different sizes and heat levels. The largest red ones are usually the mildest ones.

The tasting setup can really be this simple! Few paper plates, marker, peppers and a knife. Now people know what they're eating!

Marking the comparative heat level of each chili type will inform participants how hot each pepper is. Now they know when they can go crazy!

Don't put this on the plate without informing participants about the heat levels and risks. Even the tiniest Carolina Reaper will pack a hefty 2.000.000 SHUs! That's half of the heat of pepper sprays!

And finally, don't forget that a good chili can be enjoyed twice! Rather serve small amounts of chili to participants instead of big chunks. The following night and next morning may be... slightly uncomfortable if you overdo it!

Have a great tasting party!


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