The old grading system for paprikas has evolved into a much simpler one. Just 15 years ago, Hungary used 8 different names to classify the heat, color, and flavor of it’s famed chiles.
- Special Quality (Különleges): The mildest and brightest red of all Hungarian paprikas, with excellent aroma.
- Delicate (Csípősmentes csemege): Ranging from light to dark red, a mild paprika with a rich flavor.
- Exquisite Delicate (Csemegepaprika): Similar to Delicate, but more pungent.
- Pungent Exquisite Delicate (Csípős csemege, Pikant): A yet more pungent Delicate.
- Rose (Rózsa): Pale Red in color with strong aroma and mild pungency..
- Noble Sweet (Édesnemes): The most commonly exported paprika; bright red and slightly pungent.
- Half-Sweet (Félédes): A blend of mild and pungent paprikas; medium pungency.
- Hot (Erős): Light brown in color, this is the hottest of all the paprikas
A chile farmer would produce one or two varieties and take the dried pods to a central miller or co-op. They would be ground and then graded according to government standards.
More recently, paprika for western markets is graded by color only. The amount of pigment in the ground product is measured using ASTA (American Spice Trade Association) standardized testing. The assumption is that the paprika is always mild (sweet). The miller will blend different varieties and cultivars to obtain the desired level of color. He may also remove or not remove the seeds depending on the order and buyer (usually for metric tons). The more color in the product – the higher the price. The range runs from 80 ASTA (light orange) to 160 ASTA dark red). Higher and brighter levels are, of course achievable but the price is prohibitive and these grades are rarely produced on commercial levels and never seen outside their native land.
We had an artisanal paprika producer that supplied us with 240 ASTA product for two seasons. Then, alas he went broke, lost his house, and we lost contact.
We are still looking for someone to produce that great product again.