January 3, 2013
It’s Science: Hot Cocoa Tastes Better In An Orange Mug
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
There are few things that pair better with cold winter weather than a warm, delicious mug of hot chocolate. Like any other hot beverage, there´s a certain amount of ritual which accompanies the preparation of hot chocolate. Perhaps there´s an old family recipe or secret ingredient (rum) that helps make the beverage something truly special.
As we head into the dead of winter, some British and Spanish researchers have taken it upon themselves to determine what really pushes a cup of cocoa over the edge of blissful indulgence.
After conducting a battery of tests and whipping up batch after batch of warm dairy beverage, Betina Piqueras-Fiszman, researcher at the Polytechnic University of Valencia and Charles Spence, from the University of Oxford have claimed to have found the ultimate secret:
A cream or orange colored mug.
It´s been noted before that our senses play a large role in the way food tastes in our mouths. As it turns out, after years and years of research, that old adage “we eat with our eyes” is actually scientifically viable.
“The color of the container where food and drink are served can enhance some attributes like taste and aroma,” said Piqueras-Fiszman in a statement explaining the research. The two colleagues have also had their warm and liquid results published in the Journal of Sensory Studies.
To arrive at the cream-colored conclusion, the duo asked 57 privileged participants to sample hot chocolate, which was served up in 4 different types of plastic cups. Each type of cup was the same size and colored white inside but bore different colors on the outside: cream, orange, red and white.
The participants reported that the hot chocolate sampled in the cream and orange colored cups simply tasted better than those in other cups.
Interestingly, though the participants preferred the cocoa in the cream and orange cups, the aroma and sweetness of the hot cocoa were not affected by the color of the cup.
“There is no fixed rule stating that flavor and aroma are enhanced in a cup of a certain color or shade,” Piqueras-Fiszman said.
“In reality this varies depending on the type of food, but the truth is that, as this effect occurs, more attention should be paid to the color of the container as it has more potential than one could imagine.”
This study goes beyond preparing a favored winter beverage.
Scientists will be able to apply these results to better understand how the brain uses all of the senses to arrive at one general opinion.
Additionally, this research will prove handy for chefs and other food service professionals who will undoubtedly want to discover which colors persuade customers to buy their products.
As Piqueras-Fiszman explains, “It is a case of experimenting to understand how the container itself affects the perceptions that the consumers have on the product.”
Perhaps those manufactures of cream and orange colored mugs would also be interested in this research, if for no other reason than to be sure to stock up on those models.
After all, there´s plenty of winter left for much of the nation, and there´s nothing wrong with making a good cup of cocoa great.