An Experiment (and Treat) for Halloween

By Spencer Hyman  ·  1st November 2021  ·  Weekly Blog

Officially the clocks go back this weekend here in the UK.  We are between Summer and Winter solstices.  And according to many, it’s the start of winter. Plus it’s Halloween this weekend!

So, we’d like to invite you to kick off the winter tradition of drinking hot chocolate, with a twist, using the colours of Halloween.

The importance of visual, textural, and auditory cues in our appreciation of food and drink is well known. There have been multiple studies where unwitting wine experts are confounded by the ‘game’ of colouring white wine red. Similarly, many foodies have been fooled into believing that stale crisps are fresh when they are played crunchy sounds. There is a whole science dedicated to what is called ‘soma sensory’ and ‘cross modal’ impressions of flavour and taste. There are plenty of fun examples; one personal favourite is Professor Barry Smith’s description of the sound engineering used to create ‘freshness’ in fizzy drinks.

Back almost a decade ago, Betina Piqueras-Fisman and Charles Spence performed an intriguing study on how the colour of a cup impacted people’s perception of sweetness and flavour in drinking hot chocolate. And given that they specifically used orange (as well as black and white cups) we thought it would be fun to use any of those spooky Halloween black or orange cups, along with any cream or white ones, to replicate their study. The idea is that we associate certain colours with specific tastes and flavours, for example; orange enhances our appreciation of some flavours (like chocolate). Although the exact mechanics are unclear, it’s intriguing to explore how different textures, sounds, and colours do change our appreciation of different foods and drinks. And for this experiment, we’re specifically intrigued to know whether you too find that: 

“Orange (with a white interior) and dark-cream colored cups enhanced the chocolate flavor of the drink… By contrast, sweetness and chocolate aroma were less influenced by the color of the cup, but the results still showed that the hot chocolate, when consumed from the dark-cream cup, was rated as sweeter and its aroma more intense”

Please can you record your impressions HERE (for the chance to win some more craft chocolate from both Original Beans and Menakao)?

Even if you don’t have any leftover orange cups, can we still recommend that, now the nights are coming earlier, and the temperatures are starting to drop, you consider making some craft chocolate to drink? We’ve some great options from Menakao and Original Beans.  We’ve also some great recipes, and a fun video from Prufrock Barista superstar Ewelina Kania, showing you how a pro does it (and why it’s easy to do that at home too) see HERE

If you want to know more about the history of drinking chocolate, come to a virtual tasting where you might discover:

  • The first drinking chocolate can be dated over 5,500 years ago in Santa Anna, Ecuador (sorry Mexico!),
  • Why one of the first descriptions by the conquistadors of Montezuma’s court of him consuming “the froth of fifty cups of drinking chocolate” may have kickstarted all the other misapprehensions about chocolate as an aphrodisiac (see HERE for more),
  • How the Jesuits used ‘influencer marketing’ with the support of the Papacy to launch drinking chocolate (it was used as means to ward off peckishness on fasting days in the 16th and 17th century),
  • How the Boston Tea Party could (perhaps) have been averted had Benjamin Franklin achieved his ambition of making drinking chocolate the preferred beverage in 18th Century North America,
  • Why the 18th and 19th century Dutch believed that drinking hot chocolate messed up their beards in the winter, indirectly leading to the launch of chocolate bars (until the late 19th century, chocolate was always drunk; chocolate bars have been around for less than 200 years),
  • Why even though drinking chocolate contains the stimulant theobromine (and small amounts of caffeine) it’s still fine to drink before bed,
  • Why drinking craft chocolate tastes so much better, and is so much better for the farmers, planet, and your health (hint: A cup of some mass produced drinking chocolate contains the same amount of salt as a cup of seawater!)

Anyhow; Happy Halloween! And do put those Halloween colours to some scientific testing; let us know how you get on HERE! (And if you missed last week’s email on Halloween, it’s HERE, and our Halloween boxes are still available HERE).

Even if you don’t have any leftover orange cups to hand, now that winter is here, do start to enjoy the delights of drinking craft chocolate. I for one will be taking a flask of hot chocolate for my Halloween swim in the Hampstead ponds (now down to 12 degrees; so definitely a ‘treat’)!

As ever, thanks for your support!


P.S. Kathryn Laverack launched her wonderful idea of pairing craft chocolate with books at Canopy Market the other week, to HUGE enthusiasm. You can see what it’s all about HERE, and her first pairing is now live HERE.

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