Saturday, August 24

Pepper re-imagined

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Awaeang shows her pepper vines and berries.

WOULD you like black pepper coffee, black pepper cafe latte, or black pepper milk tea?

This question may seem odd but don’t be surprised if someone poses it to you soon.

Pepper – or black pepper in this case – is more than just a spice as it is also known for its medicinal value. So adding it to coffee or tea is not a bad idea, especially for the health-conscious.

Entrepreneur Awaeang Kwasin has taken the brew a step further by coming up with premix Black Pepper Coffee with Tongkat Ali, premix Cafe Latte with Honey, and premix Black Pepper Milk Tea with Dates.

The result of this innovation is a pleasant healthy drink. Added to this mixture are ingredients such as dietary fibre inulin and prebiotics to aid in weight loss.

“I believe this is something never done before. Maybe it’s the first time anyone has come up with such a concoction. I want to make a drink that’s not just nice but also helps weight loss in a healthy manner.

“Black pepper isn’t just a spice. It also has medicinal value such as expelling wind from body, controlling appetite, removing toxin from body and improving blood circulation,” she told thesundaypost.

The three new products were launched on June 14 at Suria KLCC in Kuala Lumpur.

Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry (business development) director Ismainur Hadi Amat Bakeron officiated at the event held in conjunction with International Borneo Fest 2019 at the popular shopping mall.

Launching of the massage oil and gel by Education, Science and Technological Research Minister Dato Sri Michael Manyin Jawong in Kuching last year.

New milestones

For Awaeang, who comes from Kampung Bratan, Jalan Puncak Borneo, not far from Kuching, but now lives in Selangor, the products are new milestones in her quest to bring more innovation to pepper, a commodity widely cultivated in Sarawak.

Like others in the business, she started by selling white and black pepper powders and other forms of spices (from pepper), but branched out last year and subsequently came up with a pepper-based massage oil and gel which are now gaining popularity.

The 41-year-old, fondly known as Awin, comes from a family of pepper farmers, and together with her siblings, she used to help their parents pick pepper berries, soak them by the river and dry them in the sun.

It is now three years since she has been producing pepper-based products, a venture she started following a challenge from friends to market the commodity on her own.

She is also the first Bidayuh woman to obtain an export licence from the Malaysian Pepper Board, and is now looking to market the world-renowned spice in Hong Kong and China.

Awaeang (third left) and her team after launching of the new products by Ismainur (centre) at Suria KLCC.

“Many people are surprised when told the pepper from Sarawak isn’t used just as a spice but can also be processed into other products such as massage oil and gel. And now, my company has come up with pepper-based coffee and tea drinks.

“To have a Sarawakian identity, Nang Ori was chosen as the brand name. It’s a Sarawak Malay word which means ‘really original’. We package the products with Sarawak tribal designs.

“This is what drives me – to come up with innovations and products based on Sarawak pepper. And hopefully, these new products will make Nang Ori not only popular domestically but also enable it to penetrate the international market,” she explained.

Awaeang, clad in Bidayuh traditional gear, poses for the camera at her pepper garden.

Growing business

According to Awaeang, her brand now has more than 650 agents under the Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) concept to sell the products.

At first, there were just 30 agents but the number increased after the massage oil and gel were launched in August last year.

Freshly picked berries before being processed into white and black pepper.

“We also train the agents to help them succeed and earn extra income for their households,” she said.

Awaeang revealed the company is expected to come up with more Sarawak pepper-based products by the end of this year through collaboration with the Research and Development Section of Sirim Berhad.

Though she has been living in Selangor for almost 20 years, she makes sure the company’s headquarters is in Sarawak. Presently, it’s located at Kota Samarahan.

The management office and distribution centre is in Puchong, Selangor, while the processing plant is in Melaka Halal Hub.

“Now, our pepper products are being sold in Aeon, Mydin and Giant hypermarkets throughout Malaysia,” she said.