I'm sure that habaneros have been around for a long time, but the first I remember hearing about them was about ten years ago, when they started being sold and billed as the hottest peppers that were widely available commercially. Since then, there have been a few peppers that have been rated as hotter, but the habanero is still near the top.
If you're not familiar with the Scoville Scale, it is how they measure the heat of peppers, based on how much capsaicin (the chemical that gives them their heat) is present. The picture below is too small to see very well, but if you click on it, you'll get a picture of the scale. A jalapeño is 2,500-8,000 Scoville units. A habanero: 100,000-350,000.
Some of you know this, others probably didn't, but I used to have a few body piercings. Oh, they're gone now, and they weren't in places you'd have seen if you worked with me, but they were there. When people found out, one of the most frequently asked questions was, "Didn't that hurt?" to which my favorite answer was a completely stone-faced "Yes." Here's the thing about the pain, though - it's immediate, it's sharp, and after the initial stab it kind of throbs for a while, but it also brings an immediate rush of adrenaline and endorphins like you've never experienced.
The same thing happened while I was eating the peppers. It hurt so much, but as I rode through it, my brain went to this really excellent place. The pain subsided, but the calm remained. I was breathing easier, thinking clearly, and kind of euphoric. It hurt, but I would do it again. Much like the piercings...