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"Short stories and travel reports from my life adventures around the globe".

Travel Report: La Plantation Pepper Farm, Kampot.

What to see and do Kampot.

La Plantation Pepper Farm, Kampot.

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September 2020. Who would have thought that the less-trodden province of Kampot in Cambodia is home to some of the world’s best pepper farms? It’s something to do with the mineral rich soil and the intensity of the rainy season, among other factors. Venture out of Kampot’s sleepy city centre into the even more languid countryside and you’ll find hundreds of pepper farms scattered around.

The Secret Lake Kampot Cambodia.

The Secret Lake, Kampot.

Kampot’s biggest pepper player is La Plantation, a French-Belgian owned farm and social project located deep in the middle of nowhere, about an hour outside the city.

It’s a journey Sladja and I are unlikely to ever forget. Crunching through the potholes of various dusty village lanes in our tuk tuk, we eventually arrived at this amazing Secret Lake. So pretty we had to pause our journey to drink in the views.

The Secret Lake Kampot.

A beautiful but tragic spot.

Sadly, we later discovered The Khmer Rouge used slaves to build the lake in the mid 1970s. Those that died during its construction were buried under the lake, taking their secrets with them.

La Plantation Pepper Farm.

La Plantation Pepper Farm Kampot

Arriving at La Plantation.

Our visit to La Plantation was highly speculative. Due to COVID, we weren’t even sure if they’d be open. But right enough, as we pulled up outside the entrance, someone came scurrying out with a bottle of hand sanitiser and a temperature gun. #thenewnormal

La Plantation Pepper Farm in Kampot.

La Plantation Pepper Farm.

Having been deemed healthy, we followed the signs by the main path towards the Welcome Hall. This is the farm’s greeting point, education centre, restaurant, product store and pepper tasting corner.

La Plantation Pepper Farm Kampot CambodiaLa Plantation Pepper Farm Kampot Cambodia

“Welcome to La Plantation!”

The magnificent traditional wooden Khmer structure is over a hundred years old. Moreover, like several others across the farm, it’s been beautifully restored to its original glory after the owners found it derelict. “Welcome to La Plantation!” called a Khmer girl from the first floor as we approached the entrance steps.

Jean-Baptiste Casanova La Plantation Pepper Farm

Jean-Baptiste Casanova.

Inside, La Plantation’s brilliantly named Sales Executive Jean-Baptiste Casanova warmly greeted us and we sat down for a chat. He seemed surprised by our arrival, freely admitting that things had been “deathly quiet” over the past few months.

“You’re the first people here today” he revealed, with a wry smile.

Butterfly Pea Flower Cocktail Kampot Cambodia

Butterfly Pea Flower Cocktail.

Hot and bothered from our tuk tuk journey, we ordered two of the farm’s signature drinks. That delicious blue creation on the right is a Butterfly Pea Flower Cocktail. Sweet, icy and with sesame seed notes, give it a stir and you’ll see its colour change to a delightful bright purple.

La Plantation Pepper Farm Kampot logo.

As we sipped on our drinks, Jean-Baptiste told us a little about La Plantation’s short but successful history. The farm opened in 2013, the brainchild of a French woman, Nathalie Chaboche, and her Belgian husband Guy Porré. Both had successful careers in technology, but left it all behind “for a quiet life near the sea”.

Nathalie Chaboche and Guy Porré La Plantation Pepper Farm.

Guy Porre and Nathalie Chaboche.

Photo courtesy of RTF.be

Taking over 99 acres of land, Nathalie and Guy subsequently created Kampot’s largest pepper farm. The farm now has over twenty thousand vines, which produce around 25 tonnes of pepper a year. They employ three hundred people, half of which work for La Plantation full time.

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Jean-Baptiste, who graduated from the word’s top hospitality management university in Switzerland, says he came to La Plantation because he was convinced by the project. Namely developing a sustainable company that provides unparalleled life opportunities to local farmers.

He arrived just a few months earlier, right in the middle of the pandemic. “Yeah, it was a nightmare” he grinned. “But totally worth it, I mean look at that view”. 

Smoked eggplant dish La Plantation Pepper Farm.

La Plantation’s delicious smoked eggplant.

Sladja and I were so comfortable we decided to get some food too. Usually, La Plantation has a full menu featuring traditional Khmer dishes and a rotisserie. That day however, because of staff shortages, they could only offer Smoked Eggplant with White Rice. It was wonderful and, crucially, we got our first taste of their famous black pepper.

La Plantation Pepper Farm.

Free tour La Plantation Kampot.

The free tour!

Visitors can take a stroll around the farm with a guide. Offered in English, French and Khmer, the tour is free of charge and takes just half an hour. You also get a cute farmer’s hat to keep the burning sun at bay.

Pepper farm Kampot.

La Plantation Pepper Farm.

Making our way to the first section of neatly arranged peppersticks, our guide gave us a much needed potted history of Cambodian pepper production.

She told us how locals have been farming it for centuries. And that there was a huge boom in the early 1900s when French colonialists began exporting vast quantities back to France.

Pepper vines La Plantation Pepper Farm Kampot

A big ol’ bushy pepper vine.

Like everything else they touched in Cambodia, The Khmer Rouge came close to destroying the industry in the late 1970s when they forced farmers into becoming soldiers. It took a long time for the region to bounce back. Indeed, by the end of the 1990s, Kampot was producing no more than 2-3 tonnes of pepper annually.

Kampot Pepper.

Buy Kampot Pepper La Plantation Kampot Cambodia.

Kampot Pepper.

Nevertheless, the rebuilding process continued, eventually heralding the birth of The Kampot Pepper Promotion Association. In 2016 The EU gave farmers a huge boost by awarding the province a prestigious Protected Geographical Indication status. In short, they were saying: “Listen up everyone, you know Kampot Pepper? That shit’s for real!” These days Kampot exports over 100 tonnes a year.

Pepper plantation Kampot Cambodia.

La Plantation Pepper Farm.

The pepperstick forests really are handsome, all bushy and a deep summer green. There was a worker watering them that afternoon, which has to be done every few days.

Much to my surprise, I learned that pepper plants don’t like sunlight all that much! Which is why the sticks are protected by a layer of crispy dried bamboo leaves.

Sunny afternoon La Plantation Pepper Farm Cambodia

Bamboo leaf protection.

Furthermore, it takes around three years for one of these towering sticks to fully mature. And that’s assuming there isn’t a drought or some kind of crazy flood. The nurturing is done by hand, from the soiling and checking, to the watering, picking and drying.  And of course the entire process is organic from start to finish.

La Plantation produces the full range of peppers, including black, white and red, although in the beginning they all start out green. White peppercorns are the most expensive, at around $100 an ounce.

La Plantation Pepper Farm.

Kampot White Pepper.

Kampot White Pepper.

In addition to pepper, they also farm bananas, dragon fruit, passion fruit, mangos, pineapples and more. The free tour takes you past all these plantations, which is fun to see. The whole farm is beautiful, impeccably kept and framed by a backdrop of rolling hills.

Dragon fruit plantation Kampot Cambodia.

Dragon Fruit Plantation.

Like all the best businesses we’ve profiled in Cambodia, La Plantation invests in and supports the local community. As well as growing their own pepper, they also buy from small farms for a fair price. This cuts out the shady middlemen who’ve been keeping local farms in a state of financial stagnation. They then find a market for them, ensuring better sustainable relationships.

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What’s more, Nathalie and Guy are committed to improving the standards of local education. They have their own education centre onsite, in one of those gorgeous old Khmer houses. Here, local children can take French and English classes. They also finance a local primary school and have developed a scholarship program where students receive free transport, clothing, books, material and food.

French and English classes La Plantation Pepper Farm

The school at La Plantation.

Back in The Welcome Hall, it was time for our Pepper Tasting, included in the free tour. Presenting us with a packed wooden tray of spices, our guide encouraged us to try all the different blends. There were so many we could hardly keep up as she introduced each type and its different aromas and flavours.

Pepper Tasting!

Pepper Tasting La Plantation Kampot.

A whole lotta’ pepper.

There were a few favourites. Take the Millesime 2019, for example, with its black chocolate colour and tantalising mix of sweetness and spiciness. Used for chocolate cake and cream brûlée, but also certain types of pasta and rice.

Free tasting La Plantation Pepper Farm Kampot

La Plantation Pepper Farm.

I’d never visited a pepper farm before. Thus La Plantation went down as yet another unique experience from our 2020 Cambodian adventures.

I should also point out that, when things are running normally, they hold cooking classes. And you can take The Buffalo Tour, where visitors clunk around the village lanes to The Secret Lake in a buffalo-pulled water cart.

La Plantation.

La Plantation Pepper Farm.

For more on La Plantation, here’s their website. To see a great vlogging review, take a look at this video from Jack and Gab Explore.

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Like this? Read more of my travel reports from Kampot.

Or go further afield with my many articles from across Cambodia.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

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24 Comments

  • rajanisingh885721172

    Beautiful post

    January 30, 2021 - 8:34 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thank you!

      January 30, 2021 - 9:21 am Reply
  • travelling_han

    Looks beautiful and interesting….and that purple drink looks incredible 😊

    January 30, 2021 - 9:15 am Reply
    • Leighton

      It was great! I could have easily knocked back half a dozen of those.

      January 30, 2021 - 9:16 am Reply
  • beatravelling

    This looks cool! I’ve been on a spice farm in Tanzania, but never a pepper only farm. Cambodia was on my list for last year, but we all know what happened 🙁 Those drinks I’d like to try 😀

    January 30, 2021 - 10:44 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Bea, glad you liked the article! I’m sure you can get to Cambodia later this year or maybe next? Hope you enjoy the rest of my Kampot series. Tanzania sounds fascinating by the way!

      January 30, 2021 - 10:47 am Reply
      • beatravelling

        Pushing this year’s summer vacation until Nov/Dec, fingers crossed! I love Africa 😀

        January 30, 2021 - 10:51 am
  • PedroL

    It is always lovely to visit plantations, be part of tours… and have wonderful cocktails ahah it was wonderful to read your experience in Kampot 🙂 stay safe and cheers from Portugal 🙂 PedroL

    January 30, 2021 - 12:27 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey PedroL, thanks for reading and commenting! Glad you liked the article. Would love to see Portugal one day!

      January 30, 2021 - 12:28 pm Reply
      • PedroL

        Hope you manage to come Leighton 🙂 if you need any tip feel free to write me or find it in my blog 🙂 regards, PedroL

        January 30, 2021 - 12:38 pm
  • Little Miss Traveller

    Wow, never been to a pepper farm but sounds interesting. Loved the look of your cocktails too!

    January 30, 2021 - 2:58 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Marion, the cocktails seem to have caught everyone’s eyes!

      January 30, 2021 - 3:02 pm Reply
  • Memo

    It takes three years for the plants to mature and they started in 2013. The business really is in its infancy. Loved the idea of the school. Parents will be very loyal to an employer who looks after their children. I’m really curious about the variety of tastes or is that something you just have to experience?

    January 30, 2021 - 7:05 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Memo! Yeah the business is definitely still in the process of finding its feet. The tastes were intense and pretty difficult to describe. Or at least to remember in detail nearly six months down the line.

      January 30, 2021 - 7:28 pm Reply
  • Rebecca

    How fascinating! I had the impression that the pepper farm grew chili peppers, but it appears to be peppercorns? A pepper tasting sounds unique, and hopefully it wasn’t too intense! 😉 On a different subject, the Butterfly Pea Flower cocktail looks pretty (is it alcoholic?); I’ve had the tea latte version before which wasn’t my thing, but at least it was pretty to drink!

    January 30, 2021 - 10:46 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Yup, predominantly peppercorns as I understand it. The cocktails were non-alcoholic and really refreshing! Sadly a touch on the pricy side, otherwise I’d have happily downed three or four.

      January 30, 2021 - 10:56 pm Reply
  • Lookoom

    Nice report on the kind of visits that should be encouraged to get to know and help the countries to be visited.

    January 31, 2021 - 6:08 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading!

      January 31, 2021 - 8:17 am Reply
  • Ariela

    Great post! I love reading your travels!

    January 31, 2021 - 7:11 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Ariela!

      January 31, 2021 - 8:39 am Reply
  • Nathalie Chaboche

    Thanks a lot for this great article

    January 31, 2021 - 9:10 am Reply
    • Leighton

      You are very welcome, thanks for reading!

      January 31, 2021 - 9:18 am Reply
  • InsideMySlingBag

    It’s a beautiful post Leighton! Never been to a pepper farm before, quite intriguing and looks like you had a lot of variety in those colourful drinks!

    January 31, 2021 - 9:55 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thank you so much, I appreciate that! It was a unique experience for me too. The drinks and the dish were the icing on the cake.

      January 31, 2021 - 9:56 pm Reply

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