guest post by isabella lovett
Why Does Chocolate Send Our Sense of Smell into Overdrive?
Chocolate lovers often speak of this food’s melt-in-the mouth texture and irresistibly earthy, woody, or nutty flavors but did you know that most of your enjoyment of this revered “food of the Gods” is actually indebted to your sense of smell? As found by academics at the Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, “90% of what is perceived as taste is actually smell.” The integration of smell with taste is so extensive that scientists have concluded that almost all we perceive of flavor can be traced back to “retronasal odor.” Odor and flavor, meanwhile, are known to converge in the parts of the brain that are related to taste. Why is chocolate, then, so pleasing to our olfactory senses and what can we do to enhance our experience even further?
600 Compounds in One Perfect Combination
A recent analysis of chocolate undertaken by academics at Munich Technical University has found that chocolate is actually made up of over 600 compounds which are present in just the right combination to make this food irresistible. The upper nostril actually contains over 900 odorant receptors and each of these recognizes a different compound. Complex aromas arise when multiple compounds trigger various olfactory neurons at the same time. In the case of roasted cacao beans, their individual aroma molecules contain an array of unusual scents like cooked cabbage and raw beef fat. However, when put together, these individual compounds cannot be separated individually by the brain and we appreciate the rich scent we identify as chocolate.
Creating Memories and Triggering Emotions
Chocolate is one of the world’s favorite foods and since we are children, many of us associate its buttery texture and complex aroma with comfort. Our sense of smell affects our emotions, and indeed, smell has various cognitive effects. It plays a role in creating memories, triggers our emotions, and (when it is absent) indicates we may have a long-term cognitive issue. Because chocolate can affect mood, some chocolate makers add edible therapeutic-grade essential oils like bergamot, lemon, or peppermint. These oils can have an energizing effect and add to the “pick-me-up” effect of chocolate.
Can You Enjoy Chocolate if You Don’t Have a Sense of Smell?
Approximately one in eight Americans aged over 40 has a measurable smell dysfunction called “anosmia.” Because of this condition, they cannot taste food as well, either. For instance, people with anosmia may have difficulty differentiating between different types of tea, like English breakfast and peppermint tea. One famous entrepreneur who had this condition was Ben Cohen, the founder and taster of Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream. His condition is apparently the reason why his company’s products had so many chunky ingredients and varied ingredients. If your sense of smell is less sharp than it used to be, therefore, opt for chunky chocolate products that contain ingredients like sprinkles, popping candy, and crispy bacon. Ideal bars to enjoy are chuao’s firecracker, baconluxious with plant-based bacon, and cheeky cheeky churro!
Most of our enjoyment of food is indebted to their sense of smell. Chocolate has hundreds of compounds which, together, produce the exact combination to please and comfort our olfactory senses. If for some reason you are unable to smell food temporarily, take heart. Texture is the key to enjoying your favorite treat and there are so many different textural experiences to enjoy at chuao.