White, black and green peppercorns all come from the same vine. They grow in clusters (like grapes), and are harvested in various stages of growth.
Green peppercorns are young when they are picked and dehydrated or preserved, with a resulting mild flavor.
The black peppercorns are left on the vine to fully mature and develop a stronger flavor profile. They are divided up into 3 different types, depending on their size:
Malabar – These peppercorns are the smallest and are picked just before they are ripe. They are sun-dried and then sterilized with steam to preserve the strong, aromatic oils. They have a sharp heat with fragrant notes of citrus and pine and an earthy finish.
Tellicherry – Considered the finest pepper in the world, these extra-large berries are left on the vine longer than most pepper, so they develop a deep, rich flavor.
Tellicherry Special Extra Bold – These berries are larger still, and have even more flavor and aromatics. It is also the most expensive.
White peppercorns are black peppercorns which have been soaked to remove the outer casing. This gives the white peppercorns a more intense flavor, with a slightly fermented taste and smell from the soaking process.
Pink peppercorns and Sichuan peppercorns are not true peppercorns. Pink peppercorns are soft, fragile berries with a sweet-sharp flavor. Sichuan pepper is the berry of the mountain ash tree, with a pungent, cold flavor instead of the usual heat of a peppercorn.