The University of Nottingham showcased their research into the influence of microbes on chocolate flavour at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in London last week.

They said it was their hope to show people the science behind chocolate, with researchers stating that the key to discovering new flavours in chocolate lies in properly understanding cacao’s fermentation process. 

The university collaborated with a Nottingham-based chocolate maker and a group of Colombian female Cocoa growers on the project to find the balance between the best flavour and price for premium chocolate.

Scientists used cutting-edge DNA sequencing technology, called Nanopore sequencing, to identify the different types of microbes and yeast present during fermentation and determine how they impact the taste of the resultant chocolate.

The university’s stand at the exhibition featured videos of Cocoa farms, alongside real Cocoa pods that visitors could hold and feel. People also had the chance to sample chocolate provided by Luisa’s Vegan Chocolates, who work together with the project’s farms in Colombia and Trinidad.

The company’s managing director, Luisa Vicinanza-Bedi, commented: “It’s been a fantastic experience to be involved in this research project.”

As an independent business, I understand some of the challenges the Cocoa farmers face and the need to ensure every product is of the highest quality.

Luisa Vicinanza-Bedi, Managing Director, Luisa’s Vegan Chocolates

Nottingham University states that their research is important for farmers and chocolate makers, and will lead to better quality chocolates with enhanced flavours for consumers.

It’s really exciting to be taking this research to the Summer Science Exhibition and showing visitors the science behind the chocolate they enjoy. We hope by sharing the work we’ve been doing in a fun and interactive way they will understand how different flavours develop and what a complex process it is to get chocolate from the tree to a finished product – and of course, there will be plenty of chocolate to try too.

Dr David Gopaulchan, Nottingham University

Read more about the research here:

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