Taste Tripping with a Miracle Berry
I received an exciting gift in the mail from a friend in New York. I had recently read about a "Taste Tripping" party in the New York Times. Despite the word "tripping" being associated with all sorts of chemical hallucinogens this is nothing of the sort. Something does "trip" but its not your mind and only your tongue! And what achieves this effect? A very special berry named the "Miracle Berry."
This berry is the fruit of a plant known as Synsepalum Dulcificum. Here is where the magic comes in; the berry has a very unique protein molecule called "Miraculin." And what miraculin does is it distorts our taste buds' sweet receptors so they start responding to sour and acidic flavours. In layman's terms it makes every sour or acidic thing taste sweet!
The berry is quite perishable but technology has enabled for it to be flash frozen and preserved or you get it in a more convenient "pill" form, which is a 100% natural.
Miraculin has proven to be very useful amongst diabetics and weight watchers. In fact it has become quite the fad in Japan, where special Miraculin restaurants and cafes have sprouted. Here they create desserts that contain just about a 100 calories with very low sugar content. Customers are then supplied with a miracle berry that they eat just before, after which the same insipid desserts taste scrumptiously sweet. Which is all of course a mere illusion created by the berry!
Currently the fruit is grown in Ghana, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Japan and South Florida. The berries are hard to acquire due to the very small production of it. And can be as expensive as $2-$5 a berry.
Though Miraculin is used more for health reasons in countries such as Japan and Taiwan, trendy "Taste Tripping Parties" have become quite the thing in the USA. In fact these "Tongue Tripping" parties started in the 1960s-1970s.
We decided to have a more impromptu one of our own here in Delhi and this is how it all unfolded:
Firstly it is important to gently suck on the pill rather than chew or swallow it. This allows the effects to come on faster and last longer. The pill itself tastes slightly sweet and slightly sour, something like our Indian "Ber". Once it dissolved though some have said the effects should be immediate we only felt or rather tasted them after 10 minutes.
We had planned on doing this a little more systematically but it was all too exciting and we went a little crazy. Before I continue for any of you still a little vary with the "tripping" term don't be, there is absolutely no effect on your brain, mind, body or sight. It is solely a teaser for your tongue. Also all the base flavours of the food and drinks stay the same just the sourness turns sweet.
Things we tried:
- Lemon - The first thing we tried and by far the most exciting. The lemon tasted no more sour than a mandarin orange! Actually it was like having sweet lemonade. Absolutely mind blowing. We were literally sucking on the lemons like candy. With absolutely no sourness, even your teeth didn't get sensitive with the acidity that was still very much there but I guess completely disguised.
- Vinegar - Again due to the high presence of sourness and acidity the vinegar tasted like sugar syrup, but still had that unmistakable sweaty sock smell and taste of vinegar.
- Barbecue Sauce - More or less the same just a bit sweeter
- Amla Juice - Was quite gross to be honest. A bit sweeter. Probably better to try and bite in to a fresh amla?
- Tabasco - Was another really exciting one because the initial lick was SWEET but then the kick of the heat comes in slowly at the end.
- Dairy Milk - This is embarrassing but we forgot to try this in time!
- Amul Cheese - Eeshhh nothing special. Exceptionally flat. Probably not the best cheese to have tried but was the closest thing my hand could grab!
Alcohol and Beverages - If you are trying to save a buck drink on Miraculin. The cheapest liquor goes down smoother :
- Coca-Cola - MUCH sweeter than it is! Almost sweeter than Pepsi.
- Bacardi - I never thought drinking neat Bacardi could ever be tolerable but it was. Still quite strong but what it did do was make it smoother.
- Arrack - A local Sri Lankan liquor that tastes a bit like fermented bananas . Its already a bit sweet but again smoother going down.
- Cabernet Sauvignon - Tasted a lot sweeter and fruitier.
- J&B - Smoother
Other Things Worth Trying:
- Goat Cheese - I hear Goat Cheese tastes like Cheesecake! The existing tanginess to the cheese probably brings about this change.
- Guinness Beer - Supposed to taste like chocolate.
- Pickled Vegetables
So that sums up this mad and wonderful experience. The entire thing lasted about an hour. This of course varies slightly from person to person. I have a few more pills and a lot more things to try so will keep you all updated! Some other things to keep in mind is that the pill must be eaten before and not with the food. We had absolutely no side effects. Also remember though the acidity is not hitting you at the time it certainly will the next day if you go over board. Basically, you will wake up with some nasty ulcers and blisters if you decide to chug a bottle of vinegar!
Its really hard to explain just how crazy it is to eat something very familiar and yet have it be completely unfamiliar. As I bit in to the lemon I cringed almost instinctively, but there was no need. Its wonderful to have all your preconceived notions tossed out of the window. Its like discovering the world is round for the first time after considering it flat for your entire existence!