'There's certainly too much pepper in that soup!' Alice said to herself, as well as she could for sneezing. — Alice in Wonderland (1865). Chapter VI: Pig and Pepper. Note the cook's pepper mill.

CUBEB

Piper cubeba, cubeb or tailed pepper is a plant in genus Piper, cultivated for its fruit and essential oil. It is mostly grown in Java and Sumatra, hence sometimes called Java pepper. The fruits are gathered before they are ripe, and carefully dried. Commercial cubebs consist of the dried berries, similar in appearance to black pepper, but with stalks attached – the "tails" in "tailed pepper". The dried pericarp is wrinkled, and its color ranges from grayish brown to black. The seed is hard, white and oily. The odor of cubebs is described as agreeable and aromatic and the taste as pungent, acrid, slightly bitter and persistent. It has been described as tasting like allspice, or like a cross between allspice and black pepper.

Cubeb came to Europe via India through the trade with the Arabs. The name cubeb comes from Arabic kabāba (كبابة] by way of Old French quibibes. Cubeb is mentioned in alchemical writings by its Arabic name. In his Theatrum Botanicum, John Parkinson tells that the king of Portugal prohibited the sale of cubeb to promote black pepper (Piper nigrum) around 1640. It experienced a brief resurgence in 19th-century Europe for medicinal uses, but has practically vanished from the European market since. It continues to be used as a flavoring agent for gins and cigarettes in the West, and as a seasoning for food in Indonesia.

In Europe, cubeb was one of the valuable spices during the Middle Ages. It was ground as a seasoning for meat or used in sauces. A medieval recipe includes cubeb in making sauce sarcenes, which consists of almond milk and several spices. As an aromatic confectionery, cubeb was often candied and eaten whole. Ocet Kubebowy, a vinegar infused with cubeb, cumin and garlic, was used for meat marinades in Poland during the 14th century (Dembinska 1999, p. 199). Cubeb can still be used to enhance the flavor of savory soups.

Cubeb reached Africa by way of the Arabs. In Moroccan cuisine, cubeb is used in savory dishes and in pastries like markouts, little diamonds of semolina with honey and dates. It also appears occasionally in the list of ingredients for the famed spice mixture Ras el hanout. In Indonesian cuisine, especially in Indonesian gulés (curries), cubeb is frequently used.