Belgium scientists have developed a new strain of fungus from beer yeast to improve the taste of chocolate. Amy Pollock reports.
Belgium is known for its beer - and its chocolate. Now scientists say if you put the two together, it results in a superior tasting sweet treat. Leading chocolate producer Barry Callebaut found that its flavour forms when the sticky white pulp covering cocoa beans ferments during the drying process. Gino Vrancken leads the company's global research and development team. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BARRY CALLEBAUT RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT MANAGER, GINO VRANCKEN, SAYING: "The bean is always pushed through fermentation to develop the aroma potential, but it is never done in so optimally or fully." The chocolate connoisseurs turned to scientists from Leuven to help them find the yeast that results in the tastiest cocoa bean Kevin Verstrepen's team developed a cross between a beer yeast and one that occurs in the cocoa beans' natural environment. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR AT KATHOLIEKE UNIVERSITEIT LEUVEN UNIVERSITY AND GROUP LEADER AT FLANDERS INSTITUTE FOR BIOTECHNOLOGY, KEVIN VERSTREPEN, SAYING: "If you just take a good brewer's yeast and you put it on chocolate you are not really going to get great chocolate, because they are really not adapted to that environment. So, it was really key to take the yeast we added from the chocolate that are used to growing there and that can use of the sugars and nutrients that are available in these chocolate beans." The result is a hybrid yeast that releases the most desirable aroma compounds more quickly - and prevents the growth of unwanted fungi. This allows the producer to replicate the purest cocoa flavour with every bean. And the Belgian team says using yeasts to engineer the taste of the chocolate means no added chemicals or artifical flavours. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR AT KATHOLIEKE UNIVERSITEIT LEUVEN UNIVERSITY AND GROUP LEADER AT FLANDERS INSTITUTE FOR BIOTECHNOLOGY, KEVIN VERSTREPEN, SAYING: "You will soon be able to go to the supermarket and pick your really favourite chocolate that is a bit more fruity, whereas maybe your significant other will go and he wants some more robust, you know, smokey chocolate, or a caramel-one, or a sweet or less sweet." With the beer-powered yeast behind their chocolate, Barry Callebaut is now confident their product will stand up to any taste test.