July 6, 2013

Sensory Food Science Testing

Before you feel sorry for me, this was one of the most interesting things we have done on this trip. 
Four of our days were spent taking an early bus for a moderately long city journey to a University of Florence site. 
We had lectures from two sensory food science Professors, Catarina Dinella . . .

And Erminio Monteleone. 

We participated in sensory taste tests to find out how consumer preferences are determined. 

Each day a student in a lab coat would collect several of us at a time . . .
And lead us up a flight of marble stairs in this old building to a taste testing room. 
We were partitioned off from each other where we faced a grim set of tiny plastic cups containing something to taste. 

This one was olive oil with tomato. The bread (in my case gluten free crackers) and water were used in between tastings to cleanse the palate. 
We had tasted olive oils previously and compared our likings with and without tomato. The results were amazingly different as far as preferences. We also tested to identify particular notes of say grass or apple or pepper or just bitterness which created a burning sensation in the back of the throat. This information helps food producers determine how to market their product(s). Fascinating!