What is the Carolina Reaper and how hot is it on the Scoville scale?

How do you quantify the ‘hotness’ of a chilli?

  • Over a century ago, a scientist called Wilbur Scoville attempted to put up a “heat” scale for peppers. The Scoville scale of hotness was set up as the dilution in sugar water required for a group of trained tasters. How much sugar-water is needed to be diluted into a chilli pepper mash to get to the point where you no longer feel the heat at all? The answer would be measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU).
  • Thankfully, a new method was devised several years later and tasters are no longer subjected to eating hot chilli peppers. Scientists use a high performance liquid chromatography process which measures the amount of capsaicin in the pepper itself to define the heat. Capsaicin or capsaicinoids is the concentration of the chemical compounds responsible for the heat sensation in substances.
  • However, the measurement of hot chilli pepper heat is still considered to be subjective and some aspects like where the pepper is grown can produce different results.
  • In 2000, the hottest chilli pepper in the world was said to be the Bhut Jolokia chilli from Assam. Until this, the world’s fieriest chilli variety was thought to be the ‘Red Savina’ Habanero from Mexico.
  • Since then, several other varieties of the chilli peppers took the top spot, including the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion (so hot “you might be better off eating an actual scorpion”)
  • In 2013, the Carolina Reaper chilli pepper was termed the hottest on Earth, ending a more than four-year drive to prove no one grows a more scorching chilli.
  • The heat of the peppers was certified by students at Winthrop University, who test food as part of their undergraduate classes.
  • The Carolina Reaper is so hot that a 34-year-old man who ate one during a contest in the US ended up in casualty suffering from “thunderclap headaches”.


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