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EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 305 - February 19, 2012 - ISSN 1528-6703     4 of 5

Collectors Corner: Hot Sauce for the ChileHead

By Michele Alice

February 19, 2012

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Would you eat anything called Pain is Good, Ultra Death, or Devil's Tingle? I wouldn't either, but then, I'm not a ChileHead. (Or chili-head. There are several acceptable variations.)

A ChileHead will not hesitate to submit himself to the pain generated by any one of these, or other, hot sauces for the endorphin "high" that follows. And make no mistake, the pain is real. Capsaicin, the substance responsible for the piquancy in chili peppers elicits a physiological response that is similar to that of exposure to high temperatures. Capsaicin's "heat," however, is expressed, not as degrees on a thermometer, but as Scoville Heat Units (SHU's).

The Scoville scale, devised in 1912, was based upon the results of taste tests using human subjects. Modern biochemical methods can now directly measure the amounts of capsaicin present, and the results are then converted to Scoville units. The "heat" of any particular pepper is still expressed as a range since variations in growing conditions and seed origin can affect the amounts of capsaicin found within a species. For example, Bell peppers, at the base of the scale, are assigned a heat unit of 0, while Jalapeno peppers are rated 3500 to 8000 and Cayenne peppers are rated 30,000 to 50,000. The hottest known peppers - Infinity, Naga Viper, and Trinidad Scorpion Butch T - have Scoville heat units of 855,000 to 1,463,700 (the present record) and are comparable to law-enforcement-grade pepper spray. Pure capsaicin is 16 million SHU's.

ChileHeads love hot sauces so much that they often end up collecting them. Usually, it's just a group of favorites filling a shelf or two in the kitchen or other room, along with a poster and a book or two. Or it might be a collection centered on a particular species of pepper, brand, or country. (Even the Brits, who are - fairly or unfairly - saddled with a reputation for unexciting cuisine, produce a variety of hot sauces.)

Some collectors want at least one specimen of every brand produced and end up lining the walls of entire rooms, while others focus on rarities and are willing to shell out $50, $100, and even $1000+ for unopened, mint-condition, signed, limited editions, sometimes as small as a couple of ounces!

So, the only question facing some collectors is whether to display their hot sauce bottles full or empty, and the answer is often dependent upon whether or not they purchase two bottles - one to display and one to savor.

Of course, you don't have to be a ChileHead to be a collector. Food labels often brandish colorful graphics, but few are as piquant as those that adorn containers of hot sauce, and the bottles themselves form a distinctive group enticing to some bottle collectors. Chili pepper salt-and-pepper shakers, stickers, magnets, and other similarly themed objects possess cross-collectible appeal. There's even a ChileHeads edition of Monopoly!

Interested in learning more about collecting hot sauces? Check out the resources listed below, and

Good Hunting!


The Great Chile Book

The Hot Sauce Collector's Guide: Everything You Need for Your Hot Sauce Collection, a Book for Collectors, Retailers, Manufacturers and Lovers of All Things Hot


A Brief History of U.S. Commercial Hot Sauces - Link to website - You'll recognize a number of brands in this illustrated account.

Chile, Chili, or Chilli? - Link to website - So, which is the correct spelling? The answer is here.

The Chile Pepper Institute - Link to website - New Mexico State University site has FAQs, links, chile terminology, more.

Couple devotes entire room to hot sauce collection - Link to news story - A KTVK video of an Arizona couple's 3200+ bottle collection.

International Society of Hot Sauce Aficionados (ISHSA) - Link to website - Motto: See the World; Taste the Sauce. Check out the "Hot Sauce Life List", an attempt to list all the world's known hot sauces.

The Real History of Tabasco - Link to website - By noted collector Chuck Evans, all you could ever want to know about the founding of the Tabasco brand.

The Virtual Hot Sauce Museum - Link to website - Pictures and descriptions of hundreds of chile/chili sauces from around the world. And might as well check out Mike's recipe collection while you're at it!

About the author:

Michele Alice is EcommerceBytes Update Contributing Editor. Michele is a freelance writer in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts. She collects books, science fiction memorabilia and more! Email her at makalice @ adelphia.net eBay ID: Malice9

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