The C-spot®

 Crushpad Newsletter

  Newsbites for the Chocoscenti
May 2013, Issue #5 — Issue #4 here

 

Theobromine

Real Fake Chocolate

Pleather, astro-turf, inflatable sex dolls, bio-luminescence plants, marinol, vanillin, & printable 3-D guns. When will synthetic chocolate join the party? Maybe sooner than later.

Marc Philouze, President of Diana Plant Sciences, rarely says “plant stem cells”, sensibly avoiding any controversy; instead he uses the more accurate “plant cell cultures”.

Philouze works on maximizing cocoa’s properties, specifically its flavonoids — especially the flavan-3-ols like epicatechin & procyanidins — for their purported health benefits (antioxidants, cardio, mood). This method selects cocoa cells lines that produce more flavanols than others, taken from 4 mother trees, & places them in a media or chemical soup to overexpress flavonoids by scaling up the quantity of these compounds in a bio-reactor. That is, cultures grown in a controlled, closed environment such as a petri dish, with nutrients utilizing naturally-occuring vitamins, reducing sugars, yeasts &/or bacteria.

Next it harvests cells from these bio-reactors & freeze dries them, maintained within a whole food matrix. In the case of cocoa that means all 800 or so of its chemical compounds remain present while a few desirable ones, like flavonoids, are amplified… not at the expense of the others but in relation to them.

According to Philouze the process increases overall polyphenol (the larger class flavonoids belong to) concentration to >20%. This effectively straddles the median strip between natural food & nutriceutical phood.

Such concentrations raise questions about both their bio-availability (the body can assimilate only so much) as well as flavor (polyphenols along with the amino acid proline found in chocolate are largely responsible for activating bitter receptors on the tongue). Data on the former is forthcoming while Philouze assures that the taste will be less bitter than traditional raw cocoa. Tune in next month for our assessment.

Combined with nanotechnology flavorings that represent such an infinitesimal amount that they need not be itemized on the list of ingredients yet can dominate the total flavor profile + the work of Prof. Peter Schieberle, chairman at the Institute for Food Chemistry in Munich, whose team identified the 40 or so compounds in a cacáo seed responsible for core chocolate aromas (the subject of the C-spot® article “Designer or Disaster Chocolate?“), these developments signal that the 4th & arguably final phase of Western chocolate history is upon us: the era of science.

It all inches closer to a synthetic chocolate. Beyond deep space, this is deep chocolate. The biggest challenge in this quest could be mouth feel.

Not only do chocolate lovers swoon on contact with cocoa butter, which stakes out a melting point sexily close to body temperature, fat has a direct effect on processing flavor by activating the cortical response area of the brain that controls taste, aroma & reward, which influences how flavors are perceived. No wonder Euro barsmiths add extra cocoa butter to their bars.

Let’s face it: where the rubber hits the road & not the sky, all the talk of Fair-Trade, organic, Rainforest Alliance, sustainability, child labor, etc., will melt away as soon as an artificial chocolate can be hacked. Big Candy will gladly pull up the stakes from the “20/20 Zone” where cacáo grows. And who’d blame them with political instability, climate change concerns & aging under-skilled farmhands?

But would ersatz chocolate be better or worse than the original?

It depends. Each might have their advantages & fans similar to the difference between outdoor vs. hydroponic / Mother-Earth organic vs. greenhouse engineered seen with other botanicals. Anyone who visits coffee shops in Amsterdam can experience this distinction.

Purists need not fret; there will always be a place for classic chocolate.

Real fake chocolate is simply a matter of time. But will it arrive before the Singularity Moment or shall the Robo sapiens get it all?

Next Newsletter:

       Liberation Chocolate

 

Chocolat Bonnat Gabon

Gabon-bons

Bonnat Chocolat is no stranger to hitherto unknown origins. According to the company’s history, it started the whole grand cru phenomenon officially in 1984 & unofficially in 1904. Stéphane Bonnat himself, the current scion of this chocolate dynasty, has lately introduced Haiti, Ceylan, & Cusco to chocolatarians everywhere (Cusco whispered to be, perhaps, the lost chocolate of the fabled Chuncho which the C-spot® reviewed a couple years ago).
 
No surprise then that Bonnat forwards another: Gabon.
 
Been there / done that with chocolate? No one but Stéphane Bonnat.
 
His Gabon is pretty good, or as the French would say, “Gabon c’est bon”. How “bon”? Check the review.

Book Shelf: Der Schokoladentester

It’s been a couple of years since director of sourcing & QA manager Georg Bernardini left Coppeneur Chocolate, a barsmith that vaulted to stratospheric heights around 2009 on the strength of his work on seed selection & applying the German art of engineering, achieving nearly a dozen masterpieces that finesse intense flavor.We were curious what became of this impressive former choc exec.
 
He’s got a new title: Der Schokoladentester.
 
Until now, our favorite German word was Zietchaungundermouton: “world in a mouth”, aptly describing chocolate as one of the great prisms thru which to view the world, each small bite encompassing history, culture, cuisine, botany, ecology, politics, int’l finance, global trade, euphoria, bliss, misery, intrigue & treachery.
 
Schokoladentester might just replace it.
 
Georg Bernardini is Der Schokoladentester (The Chocolate Taster). He knows cacáo inside out & can de-code or read a chocolate all the way thru the incremental steps from bean to bar.
 
Bernardini’s encyclopedic guidebook is arguably the most comprehensive resource of its kind in book format, & we dare say the only rival of any kind to the C-spot® Chocolate Census. (FULL DISCLOSURE: to avoid bias & conflict-of-interest, Georg tapped & generously cited the C-spot® for contributing ratings & reviews in the Coppeneur section of his book.)
 
Georg has devised a unique ratings system. For example, his criteria automatically deducts points if a Dark bar employs vanilla, lecithin, or even additional cocoa butter. While this puts us (respectfully) at odds with him — for if taken to its logical extension, sugar too must be penalized, no? — it puts him among the vanguard of the New Chocolate Puritans. And rather than rating each bar or piece individually, he pragmatically assigns an overall rating for a chocolate maker.
 
Georg also walks the walk — his chocolate critiques come after he’s gotten his hands dirty in the soil where cacáo grows & stuck his paws in ferment piles &, moreover, crafted chocolate on a commercial scale for a business.That spells e-x-p-e-r-t-i-s-e.
Chocolate bloggers & critics in the non-German speaking world need not fear being demolished by the sheer force of this volume. Der Schokoladentester’s very size prohibits translation, which is a shame since he calls out the nonsense that is most of today’s chocolate commentary.
 
No matter how limited your understanding of German, Der Schokoladentester is a heavyweight resource — thorough, informative, & rich.

Choc on,
the C-spot

 

 

 

 

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