Scent of a chocolate
This is not another story about the amazing health benefits of chocolate, although goodness knows, enough of those stories do grace the journals each week (usually sponsored by a confectionary maker) that a diligent correspondent could make their living reporting on chocolate alone. Neither is this a finger-wagging tale cautioning of the perils of over-indulgence. Instead, it is a tale of taste and rough beginnings and how the delicious, heady aroma and taste of chocolate has some far less glamorous components.
To fully understand this latest study into the worldâ€™s culinary darling (chocolate) we need to remind ourselves that taste is not a singular or simple thing. Flavour is not exclusively detected by taste buds in the mouth. Odour receptors in the nose play an important role in the perception of aroma and that contributes to sensations of taste.
Bearing this in mind, researchers set out to establish what are the components of chocolate that stimulate the odour detectors in your nose to see if they could simulate the chocolate aroma experience.
The background to this is that chocolate is made from cocoa beans, which are the seeds of cacao trees. Raw cocoa beans are processed initially by placing them in baskets covered with banana leaves to ferment. As yeasts and bacteria grow on the beans their bitter chemical nature is altered and they are then dried in the sun and roasted. After this, in a process known as dutching, the beans are made into chocolate.
In the new study researchers identified a range of substances present in processed cocoa beans that could stimulate odour receptors in the nose. They then looked for other foods and substances that contained those same odour receptor stimulating substances and tried combining those to recreate the odour of chocolate.
In the end they did find a combination that was not able to be differentiated from real chocolate smell by taste testers. The individual smells that combined to make the chocolate smell were potato chips, cooked meat, peaches, raw beef fat, cooked cabbage, human sweat, soil, cucumber, and honey.
There it is, chocolate has yet another dimension. The next time you crave a chocolate perhaps you could gather together the above ingredients, mix them together, inhale deeply and your chocolate craving might be satisfied. Alternately, you could diligently apply yourself to having a steady supply of chocolate on hand at all timesâ€¦up to you, really.