Focus on flavors

Individual perceptions merge into a combination of tastes, aromas and touch and, most often, its definition remains an exclusive prerogative of the taster. Marco Bazzara talks about flavor and sensory interactions.



A flavor is processed by the brain in an integrated way regarding its gustatory, tactile and aromatic components, in order to able to define it (of the food or drink we are consuming). Bite after bite, suck after suck, this descriptor is identified in a series of alternating phenomena, which evolve continuously, giving what is an overall mouth perception. This occurs because touch tends to incorporate taste, which incorporates the aromas, which (coming from the aftertaste) characterize the flavour personality.The perception area is common and, in this case, the whole oral cavity contributes to the detection of the perceived stimuli, thus starting a multimodal integration of sensations relating to different sensory systems.
The mechanism triggered by a flavor is remotely similar to a fireworks box ready to explode. Throwing a firecracker means creating havoc and deafening noise, but it is limited to a certain amount of time; the same thing happens, for example, in case of taste perception. You put a slice of orange on your tongue and you immediately perceive its acidity and, therefore, its intensity. This is an objectively defined and generally quantifiable event.
Instead with a firecrackers box, where for convenience a fuse is lit or more simply the well-known reaction is triggered by throwing one inside, it happens that in a succession of moments the contents of the box begin to crackle and inexorably explode, creating turmoil and noise without being able to precisely define the source, but arousing an immediate euphoria in the improvised pyrotechnicians. Just as it happens when we perceive the taste of a food congenial to us.
A flavor has a similar effect in a continuous interaction evolution, which can hardly be circumscribed in a calibrated and weighed way. So, all that remains is to enjoy the show with the hope of being able to attend all the acts without any particular twists and turns. Even if the perception of the individual nuances in the mouth is not a simple undertaking, one can always try to guess and define how the sensations present themselves simultaneously. This purpose is interesting and can be verified by anyone, confirming the fact that flavor is an interaction of multiple sensory modalities.
The solution is at hand if you try to divide the tasting experience into several phases. In most situations, tasters go from one sensation to another to define a flavor and think to be able to draw a realistic overview of the situation, but this often results in more confusion due to continuous interaction in the mouth. The advice I want to give is to try again to evaluate this attribute after a few minutes, without forgetting that the parameters and evaluation times vary according the product. If we had to select a food that can be easily evaluated, keeping the preparation parameters stable, such as a piece of chocolate for example, it would be much easier to divide the sensations into different tasting blocks. Choose a brand, possibly an aromatic chocolate that can guarantee an indication of its aromatic trace on the package, and divide it into 3 pieces of the same size. This step is important, because its texture together with the timing of chewing influences the perception.
Put the first piece in your mouth without forcing the chew and concentrate on the tastes. Repeat the operation now focusing on the tactile sensations, to try to understand how astringent it can be, if you have selected a 100% cocoa mass, rather than acid, if you have opted for a 70% aromatic product. Finally, eat the remaining piece and focus only on the aromatic component.
Your brain will tend to process a cumulative sensation including each of the three phases, but force yourself to focus your attention on one single sensation; only in this way you will be able to better define each attribute in the hope of clarifying the flavor itself.
The exercise could also be tried with espresso but, due to the innumerable operations envisaged for grinding, dosing and percolation, it would be impossible to maintain an extraction standard for the same product. If you don’t succeed in this attempt, at least you will have enjoyed a good chocolate, or at least I hope so.

Marco Bazzara


Articolo precedente
Articolo successivo

Articoli simili