Leeds, UK – Scientists have decoded the physical process that takes place in the mouth when a piece of chocolate is eaten, as it changes from a solid into a smooth emulsion that many people find totally irresistible.
By analysing each of the steps, University of Leeds researchers hope it will lead to the development of a new generation of luxury chocolates that will have the same feel and texture but will be healthier to consume.
During the moments it is in the mouth, the chocolate sensation arises from the way the chocolate is lubricated, either from ingredients in the chocolate itself or from saliva or a combination of the two.
Fat plays a key function almost immediately when a piece of chocolate is in contact with the tongue. After that, solid cocoa particles are released and they become important in terms of the tactile sensation, so fat deeper inside the chocolate plays a rather limited role and could be reduced without having an impact on the feel or sensation of chocolate.
The Lees scientists says lubrication science gives mechanistic insights into how food actually feels in the mouth. You can use that knowledge to design food with better taste, texture or health benefits.
If a chocolate has five percent fat or 50 percent fat it will still form droplets in the mouth and that gives you the chocolate sensation. However, it is the location of the fat in the make-up of the chocolate which matters in each stage of lubrication, and that has been rarely researched, the say.
The study published in the scientific journal ACS Applied Materials and Interface did not investigate the question of how chocolate tastes. Instead, the investigation focused on its feel and texture.
Tests were conducted using a luxury brand of dark chocolate on an artificial 3D tongue-like surface that was designed at the University of Leeds. The researchers used analytical techniques from a field of engineering called tribology to conduct the study, which included in situ imaging.
Tribology is about how surfaces and fluids interact, the levels of friction between them and the role of lubrication: in this case, saliva or liquids from the chocolate. Those mechanisms are all happening in the mouth when chocolate is eaten.
When chocolate is in contact with the tongue, it releases a fatty film that coats the tongue and other surfaces in the mouth. It is this fatty film that makes the chocolate feel smooth throughout the entire time it is in the mouth.