What is it like to eat a Carolina reaper chilli?

Northbridge Brewing Company's Chef Tama with Matt Zis.

Eating the chilli was intense - but not the worst part.

I wasn’t forced to do it. In fact, I openly admit that I put my hand up for this killer of an opportunity.

I am no foodie but I do like food with bite, and I’m also a sucker for any sort of food test – and therefore was the right man for the job.

Two years ago I was challenged to devour a Trinidad scorpion chilli, the second hottest chilli in the world. If you want to digress and see how that went for me, have a laugh at the video below.

But clearly I survived (just) and so it seemed only natural to up the ante somewhat by tackling the one the packs even more punch, the Carolina reaper.

By the Scoville scale, which records ‘hotness’ of chili, the Carolina reaper can measure in the vicinity of two million Scoville Heat Units.

For those playing at home that’s a fair step up from the humble jalapeno, which measures closer to 2000 SHU. Even without numbers, I can categorically confirm that the reaper also hits the Trinidad scorpion well out of the park.

Let’s not beat around the proverbial chilli bush – this sucker packs a punch.

At this stage I’d like to thank Chef Tama at Northbridge Brewing Company for his hospitality in preparing and dissecting my single Carolina reaper into manageably sized morsels, for placing precautionary pints of milk, water and lemonade at the ready, and finally for saving my life with a mega bowl of vanilla ice cream.

I had no idea that would prove the only force capable of somewhat silencing the instantaneous fire and pain in my mouth caused by each chew of the heat horror.

Oh, and the good chef also deserves thanks for providing me disposable gloves; considered essential safety wear when one chooses to take on this beast of a fruit. (No need to overthink it but chilli is actually a fruit, because each pepper contains internal, edible seeds.)

The pain is real.

In hindsight, the gloves should have been a warning of the experience to follow. If you don’t want this chilli oil on your fingers why would you put such powerful raw chilli going anywhere near your mouth, or attacking your insides?

Still, that’s what I did. A couple of days later I can’t say I’m proud, but I am happy to say I’ve recovered.

Here’s a brief synopsis of what happened.

You can’t prepare for the fiery taste explosion of a Carolina reaper. Even the words ‘fiery taste’ underplays what really happens.

The fruit itself is sweet enough to chew. It’s the oil from the chilli, lingering on your lips, tongue roof of mouth and gums, that delivers the insurmountable kapow.

I knocked back the first three or four pieces relatively quickly before my brain caught up with my mouth’s pain and the ‘smarts’ kicked in. The jury is out on whether consuming half a chilli constituted a moral victory or an honorable loss, but either way, that was the right time for Chef Tama to step in with his unplanned delivery of ice cream.

In hindsight it was perhaps foolish to dive back into the chilli so soon after the mouth relief tonic had taken effect, but with a ‘quicker the better’ mentality and the added bonus of more ice cream at the ready, I managed to gobble down the final few juicy chunks of Carolina reaper.

There’s no shame in crying.

Unlike my experience with the Trinidad scorpion two years ago, this time it didn’t cause my whole mouth to quiver. In fact, after a few minutes and a few more scoops of vanilla I was actually okay, if not for a slightly bloated, unsettled feeling in my stomach.

On the plus side for consuming super hot chilli, it’s one hell of a way to clear the sinuses!

I didn’t realise how clear my hyper-sensitive nasal passage was till my 15-minute stroll through the always aromatic streets of Northbridge, which combined with my still somewhat queasy stomach was a quick-fire recipe for feeling ill.

Still, that was only a small price to pay for the feeling of triumph and accomplishment I was ready to share back at the office.

A little over two hours later, the reaper hit me. It really hit me.

In literally just three minutes, I went from strutting my gastronomical success to epic worry about everything gastro. While driving no less.

I had no choice but to pull over. The knots in my stomach were unbearable. It wasn’t pain, just extreme discomfort. Discomfort to the extent that I couldn’t sit still, much less concentrate on the wheel.

I got out of the car, I got back up in the car. I laid the seat back. No position – standing, sitting, lying – could fix what my body was suffering through. I felt like vomiting, but the thought of that scared me too.

I managed to pull myself together enough to put the car back on the road, and then, unexpectedly, my whole body began to break out in sweats.

The sweats started right across my neck, my back and my forehead.

I didn’t care how it looked but at one stage, I was driving with the windows down, air-con on, my shirt ripped untucked from my waist and unbuttoned as I tried everything to stifle the sweats that were running unstoppably down my brow and sticking my back to the driver’s chair.

It must have lasted 10 minutes. Long enough for my worry to shift briefly to “how can I possibly arrive at my next appointment?” before returning to the over-riding sentiment – “Why have I done this to myself?”

FOOTNOTE: The author plans to return to the NBC for Beerland Chilli Week, where Chef Tama will be serving up treats such as Singapore Chilli mud crab and slider roulette.

Beerland Chilli Week runs Monday, June 4 to Thursday June, 7 at the NBC and Whitfords Brewing Company.