Sorry Mom, but It’s Good to Dunk

TWEET: You finally have permission to act like a kid. Dunking cookies in tea is good. Thank you science.

We’ve all done it at one point or another — dipped an Oreo in milk, a piece of doughnut in a cup of coffee, a biscuit in a mug of tea. Now we can feel fully justified in doing so. (Well, maybe not the Oreos in milk, but that just makes sense.)

British chef Heston Blumenthal decided to find out if dunking a cookie in a warm drink really changed the flavor. Blumenthal is a food star in England with cookbooks, TV shows, and a highly-revered restaurant outside London that specializes in modernist cuisine. He used a device that was placed in his nostril to measure the impact of dunking and discovered that his treat actually did have more flavor once it was put into his hot black tea. Later work with food scientists from the University of Nottingham showed that once dipped in tea, not only was the biscuit  more flavorful, but he experienced the taste faster. It all has to do with how we understand flavor.

Tastes (salty, sugary, bitter, sour, and umami) are experienced on the tongue but they are only part of the flavor story. Aromas, detected within the nose, are the other important piece. Remember as a kid when you didn’t like eating something and you’d hold your nose? There was science to that. You were restricting the aromas that reached your nose, reducing the flavor your body experienced. Dunking your cookie in your tea actually does the opposite. When it gets hot and wet, the volatile oils that we think of as aroma are released more readily so you get a stronger sense of flavor and it comes to you more quickly.

Here’s another curious fact. Some of the population may be “thermal tasters” for whom temperature maximizes the experience of bitter, astringent, and sour foods.

Now what does this mean for tea companies and shops? Maybe it just means that you should encourage people to play with their food. And tea biscuit and cookie producers? It’s time to promote the synergy between great tea and great food. And gaining a better understanding of how people experience the flavors of hot versus cold foods may influence your future tea blending choices, particularly when thinking about what might work for an iced tea versus a hot tea.

Katrina Ávila Munichiello | ©Mystic Media 2013

Linked In: Flavor is a result of a combination of taste detected on the tongue and aroma experienced in the nose. How does this affect the way that you talk to consumers about your teas? Does it guide your recommendations about storage or related to food pairings?

4 thoughts on “Sorry Mom, but It’s Good to Dunk

  1. Re:your call out to “And tea biscuit and cookie producers?”:
    Our company, Biscottea, has been quietly making dunkable biscuits to enhance tea drinking, producing shortbread baked WITH actual teas in them since 2007…..and can confirm that after selling over 3,000,000 pieces in 16 countries that there is indeed a keen market that understands what Heston Blumenthal was investigating. Checkout the Food Networks “Unwrapped” feature on dunking with tea from 2008 :www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVEOaaLYE14‎

    • Thanks Laurance for your comment. I remember reviewing your product back in early 2009 for my Tea Pages blog and I have to tell you that my husband just picked up a couple of boxes about two weeks ago from a local gourmet food shop. It’s always great to see an interesting product using tea as an ingredient. And, yes, we always dunk.

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