Sisters Reth Monyneath and Monyroath harbor a passion for Kampot pepper and want to share its unique flavor with not just the world, but within Cambodia too. They believe that Kampot pepper can add a touch of excitement and sophistication to any dish, and they are committed to bringing this special pepper to kitchens all over the country.
The sisters founded their startup, Chamkar 3, in 2021, with the goal of bringing Kampot pepper forward and making it affordable and accessible to Cambodian households. They aim to achieve this by offering the finest peppercorns, hygienic processing and packaging, and outstanding labeling.
Pepper has been a part of their family for many years. Their father started a Kampot pepper farm in 2014, and they have been involved in the business ever since. They initially followed their father's model of selling wholesale, but soon realized that they could bring their special spice directly to consumers.
Join our Telegram Channel for the latest news on Cambodia's business, tech, and startup scene!
Monyneath completed her Master’s degree in Business Administration in the US under the esteemed Fulbright Program. Monyroath majored in Architecture at the Royal University of Fine Arts and then completed a diploma in Asian Art in the UK.
Monyneath and Monyroath feel grounded in the reputation of Kampot pepper for its high quality, history, unique planting techniques, and, most importantly, the hard work that local farmers have cultivated during centuries of practice.
They hope that Kampot pepper will help elevate the dining and cooking lifestyle of locals. In the long run, they envision more recognition, accessibility, and widespread use of Kampot pepper and other Cambodian spices, both locally and regionally.
“We are very fortunate to have Uncle Yoerm as Chamkar 3’s farming master, who has 30 years of experience and knowledge in pepper farming,” Monyneath told Kiripost.
She said that the family owns a farm located in the protected geographical indication area (PGI) in the northern part of Damnak Kontuot district, Kampot province. “When there is high demand, we work alongside the community to gather pepper to meet the required demand,” she added.
Monyneath continued, “We take part in supporting locals, especially those who are residing in the community. We always have helpers to help out during the busy months of harvesting, sorting and packaging.”
She said that based on knowledge and practices, at Chamkar 3 farm there are four important steps in Kampot pepper farming. This starts with preparing the plot of land, building vines with spacing of at least 1.8 meters, covering them with shelter and planting the preferred variety of pepper.
The second stage is about feeding the pepper with water and natural fertilizers. While step three is the on-going effort in pest control and ensuring the vines are in a healthy condition. Once the pepper vines mature, the final step is harvesting.
The busiest time of the year is from late March to early June, when the ripe pepper is sorted, stored and packaged, which takes two to three months to complete. Monyneath added that they strictly follow Kampot Pepper Association’s guidelines to ensure the quality of Kampot pepper.
Kampot pepper is unique and known as one of the greatest peppers on earth, mainly because of the excellent condition of its origin, Kampot province. Bordered by the sea and mountains, the Kampot region offers an exceptional climate - exposure to the sun, just enough rainfall during the rainy season, sea breezes, and the best quality of soil nourishing pepper cultivation to meet its superior flavor and aroma.
A popular Kampot and Kep cuisine that attracts people from across the country is fresh squid or crab stir-fried with Kampot pepper. Kampot red pepper is also perfect for pork or beef stew. The pepper is also widely used as a spice for marinating meat, or adding to a salad dressing, noodle soup, porridge and more. Interestingly, Kampot red pepper is also the best pairing with dessert, pastries, and ice cream.
Monyneath said that their business has faced challenges, including decreased demand in the wholesale market especially, during and post Covid-19 time. For retail, Chamkar 3’s presence is mostly online resulting in a limited reach to potential buyers who shop at wet markets and supermarkets.
“We also believe that the current market price of Kampot pepper is higher than pepper from other regions, and that it will require more time to inform and influence the cooking behaviors to spend slightly more for it,” she added.
Monyneath stated that it is hard to measure success as they have only been operating for two years. However, they believe they are helping to increase awareness of Kampot Pepper to larger audiences, especially as Chamkar 3 is a locally-run brand of Kampot pepper.
“We see the opportunity to elevate the dining and cooking behaviors with spices by introducing the finest Kampot peppercorn with the beautifully designed package and label produced by the locals for the locals,” she said.
“With the goal to make Chamkar 3 Kampot pepper available and affordable to the market, we have tried to offer a competitive retail price. Yet, we still face challenges in the high cost of production because of our small-scale operations.”