The Scorpion’s Sting. Our Search for the World’s Hottest Chilli.
With our baking hot red centre and searing summer temperatures, it’s not hard to imagine that one of the world’s hottest chillies was birthed right here on Australian soil. Weighing in at a diabolical 1,463, 700 Scoville Heat Units (SCUs), the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T broke all records in 2011 and was officially ranked as the world’s hottest chilli at the time. Scoville Heat Units are based on the level of capsaicin (fire chemical) in chillies and by comparison to the Scorpion a green jalapeño chilli limps in at a trifling 2500-5000 SHUs. At almost 1.5 million units, the mind boggles at the heat intensity these little hellraisers can deliver.
In the midst of researching for this article I stumbled upon a trove of YouTube clips featuring reckless individuals who had clearly underestimated the consequences of ingesting a whole Trinidad Scorpion Butch T chilli on camera. What was most telling, as I watched these unfortunate subjects unwittingly annihilate themselves, was the complete inability to communicate throughout their encounter. The chilli seemed to induce a kind of red-faced catatonia, broken only by the occasional gulping of milk and wiping of sweat. Of course there was the occasional whisper of ‘Oh god help me’ or the pitiful cry, ‘Why? Why did I do that?’ However, on the whole, most subjects were rendered eerily mute, a testimony to the impact of the Scorpion’s sting. I’ll admit it, I had hoped for more screaming.
The mastermind behind the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T is Marcel de Wit who, with family members Connie and Alex de Wit, runs the multi-award winning Chilli Factory in the Lower Hunter Valley of New South Wales. Marcel says the secret to cultivating a chilli of such a butt-searing calibre is worm juice. He uses liquid runoff from a worm farm to fertilise the chillies and discovered that the nutrients, plant-growth hormones and beneficial bacteria in the liquid helped give his chillies a bit of extra bang. So much bang in fact, that the chillies themselves need to be handled with gloves to prevent two days of painful burning sensations (wincing imagining the inevitable danger of scratching one’s unmentionables, or worse, someone else’s). Even more drastically, full protective gear, including chemical masks, need to be worn when cooking with them. They are hot little devils to be sure.
To create something of such burning hot magnitude takes a certain type of genius, so I caught up with Alex de Wit of the Chilli Factory and had a chat about his love affair with chillies.
Alex, were you brought up around chillies and can you remember your first chilli experience?
Yes! Growing up in the Netherlands we were living in an area with lots of Indonesians. They had immigrated to the Netherlands after Indonesia became independent and there are approximately 500,000 of them living there these days.
I grew up with my Indonesian friends and ate lots of their spicy dishes like nasi goring (spicy fried rice), loempias (Indonesian spring rolls) and kerupuk (crispy prawn crackers). As always, meals were complemented with their sambals: sambal oelek, (raw chilli paste) and sambal badjak, (fried chilli paste).
I remember eating sambal for the first time. I must have been around ten years old and the thing I most remember is that it was extremely hot and I drank a lot of milk to get rid of the pain while my Indonesian friends had a good chuckle!
In terms of flavour, how would you describe the qualities of the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T?
The Trinidad Scorpion is from the capsicum chinense family of chillies and has a distinct fruity hotness to it. The fruitiness is the first thing that you notice. And you think, ‘gee, this isn’t too bad.’ What you don’t realise is that it actually takes approximately two minutes to kick in so at first you think you are safe (he chuckles sadistically).
Does The Chilli Factory have any plans to produce something even more potent than the Butch T in the future?
Working on it! We need to do more testing and we need a very good summer with not much rain and plenty of sunshine. We will let you know as soon as we know more.
What’s your favourite chilli inspired dish and why?
Chilli Chicken with rice or noodles. I love to marinate the chicken for at least 24 hours in my own mix of herbs, spices and chillies. It’s delicious! Put it in the oven for 20 minutes and it is great.
Have you ever had a serious or amusing chilli mishap? Tell us about it.
My mum has always had some sambal oelek in the kitchen. It is not too spicy and is a great addition to any dish really. One day I was at her place eating something that really needed just a hint of chilli. I grabbed the jar of sambal oelek and added a whole heap because it’s fairly mild to my palate. I had a good spoonful of the sambal and once I swallowed it I realised something was seriously wrong. I started to sweat and hiccup and my throat almost closed down on me! Gasping for breath I put my mouth under the water tap for at least ten whole minutes hoping to clear my airways.
I’d never ever eaten a sambal oelek this hot. Normally I can just eat that stuff by the tablespoon. I noticed that everybody was laughing. ‘Ha-ha very funny guys.’ My mum finally admitted to me that she had had an empty jar of sambal oelek and asked Marcel, (my brother) to refill it with some chillies. Turns out my brother had filled the whole jar up with HABANERO chillies! Those are about twenty times hotter than sambal. That was quite an experience.
Can you just eat chillies whole nowadays? Are you super tolerant?
Well hmmm. No, not all of them. You do build up a tolerance but you can definitely still feel the heat. I can eat about a third of a Trinidad Scorpion fresh and then I’ve got to stop. My brother ate a whole one for a TV recording here at the farm and he still regrets that decision today. He was in pain for at least twelve hours. Stomach cramps, burning sensation through his intestines, and the next day on the toilet hurt just as much as eating it in the first place.
We always say, ‘hot in, hot out’. Chilli oils don’t dissolve in your body, which means that the working ingredient still is 100% hot when it comes out.
What is your favourite chilli to eat and why?
I love my habañeros—although you wouldn’t think so because my very first habañero encounter was ah, challenging to say the least. I love the addictive flavour of the habañero and they are so nice with absolutely anything. I eat chillies every day and I never get the flu or get sick so there you go. It’s a super food as far as I’m concerned.
What is a chilli ‘high’ and are you on one all day long?
Yeah bring it on—and it’s all legal too. I love my chillies and I’ve noticed over the years, after going to all the chilli shows that the people who laugh a lot are the chilli lovers. We at The Chilli Factory are a happy lot too, so you could definitely say that chillies help with a positive temperament.
A chilli high is your brain releasing endorphins to kill the pain of the chilli. The brain produces so much of these ‘feel good’ chemicals to help you cope with the fact that your mouth is on fire that you experience a genuine natural high.
When I eat a really hot chilli I encounter a range of interesting and varied experiences. These might include: light headedness, being wobbly on the legs, not thinking clearly, teary eyes, ringing ears, itchy head, popping ears, racing heartbeat, faster metabolism, cleared sinuses and a euphoric feeling. Apparently humans are the only mammals that keep eating chilli peppers even though they create a burning sensation. We love the pleasure and the pain.
Written by Carla Versitano for Mojo Junction.
The Chilli Factory in the Lower Hunter Valley of New South Wales also has a delicious range of sauces and pastes to entice (and possibly scald) you palate. They have everything from award-winning sweet chilli sauces to 15+/10 heat-rated ‘Reaper Paste’—truly not a condiment for the faint hearted. All their products are preservative free and all except one are gluten free too.
To find out more about the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T and check out their range of gourmet chilli products visit Alex, Marcel and the gang at thechillifactory.com.
Watch some of their chilli videos and see more of their story here.
Watch idiots eat whole Trinidad Scorpio Butch T’s here.