Dark chocolate lovers can handle a wider range of bitter tastes before rejection compared to milk chocolate fans, according to Penn State food scientists.
In a test of bitterness rejection levels in chocolate, people who prefer milk chocolate quickly detected -- and disliked -- milk chocolate with a bitter substance added to the candy, according to Meriel Harwood, a graduate student in food science. Dark chocolate fans had significantly higher tolerance to the added bitterness than people who like milk chocolate.
"In some cases, you may be able to detect a change in the taste of your food, but that might not necessarily lead to disliking the product," said Harwood. "However, almost immediately, people who preferred milk chocolate indicated they tasted something different and they didn't like it."
The researchers, who report their findings in the online version of the Journal of Food Science, divided a group of 85 participants into two groups based on their self-identified preferences in chocolate. A total of 43 people told researchers they preferred milk chocolate, and 42 people said they preferred dark chocolate.
Participants tried a series of pairs of dime-sized chocolate samples. In each pair, one sample contained sucrose octaacetate -- SOA -- a bitter-tasting substance, and the other did not. In each successive pair, the next samples contained increasing amounts of SOA.
The milk chocolate group quickly rejected the samples with SOA, while the dark chocolate group continued to like the candy, Harwood said. The dark chocolate group had a rejection threshold more than 2.5 times the rejection threshold level of those who prefer milk chocolate.
Harwood, who worked with Greg Ziegler, professor of food science, and John Hayes, assistant professor of food science and director of the sensory evaluation center, said that tests of rejection thresholds in food may be a simpler and more direct way to test food acceptability rather t
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