Formulation research finds secret of chocolate’s seduction

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 1st September 2011

A German scientist believes he has discovered the scientific explanation for chocolate’s unique aroma and taste.

Professor Peter Schieberle, of the Technical University of Munich, says a combination of raw beef fat, human sweat, cabbage and an improbable palate of other distinctly un-cocoa-like aromas are what makes chocolate taste and smell the way it does. His findings have been published this week by the American Chemical Society.

Professor Schieberle believes that better knowledge of flavor substances in cocoa beans could lead to a new genre of “designer chocolates” with never-before-experienced tastes and aromas.

According to Professor Scheiberle’s research, the mouth-watering aroma of roasted cocoa beans – the key ingredient for chocolate – emerges from substances that individually smell like potato chips, cooked meat, peaches, raw beef fat, cooked cabbage, human sweat, earth, cucumber, and honey amongst others.

Professor Schieberle said, “To develop better chocolate, you need to know the chemistry behind the aroma and taste substances in cocoa and other ingredients.

“Cocoa production developed over the years by trial and error, not by scientific analysis, so the substances that give chocolate its subtle flavors were largely unknown.

“The flavors of chocolate and other foods come not just from taste buds in the mouth. Odor receptors in the nose play an important role in the perception of aroma. Various substances present in cocoa for aromas bind to human odor receptors in the nose. We mimicked the overall chocolate flavor in so-called ‘recombinates’ containing those ingredients. Taste testers couldn’t tell the difference when they sampled some of those concoctions. Individually, those substances had aromas of potato chips, peaches, cooked meat and other un-chocolatey foods.

“This is a crucial step toward determining how aroma substances work together to stimulate human odor and taste receptors to finally generate the overall perception of chocolate in the brain.”

Schieberle’s research could help food manufacturers control and improve the flavor of cocoa products by assessing these key components in their mixtures.