Vegan Boba Tea Debuts in Japan

Anna Starostinetskaya wrote . . . . . . . . .

For a limited time period, beauty brand Botanist offers specialty boba teas from a stand inside its in-store café in the Harajuku district of Tokyo, Japan.

One of the two options is fully vegan and features a blue-hued pea milk tea base dotted with brown sugar tapioca balls sourced from Taiwan.

Botanist will only serve 100 cups of the specialty boba teas per day.

The beauty brand also offers a number of vegan food options at its café, including pasta dishes, waffles, and desserts.

In March, Botanist added the vegan Sakura Burger to its menu in celebration of Japan’s “Sakura” (Cherry Blossom) festival. The burger features a soy patty that is topped with vegan cheese, a pink-hued sauce colored with beets, and fresh vegetables that come sandwiched between cherry-colored buns made with sweet potatoes.

Source: Veg News


Mapping the Flavour Genome

Michael Wolf wrote . . . . . . . . .

Beth Altringer first became fascinated in flavor when she joined a competitive wine tasting league while in graduate school at The University of Cambridge.

While it had nothing to do with her field of study (product design and innovation), the very idea of breaking down the characteristics of wine and its flavor into highly descriptive and well understood categories was a revelation to Altringer, so much so she eventually began to think about the idea of applying this systematic and analytical approach to flavor to almost any type of food.

It was from there that the Flavor Genome Project was born, an initiative that “explores how components of flavor combine to create delightful multi-sensory, chemical, emotional, and cultural experiences.” The goal of the project is to eventually create an “automated understanding of what people are intuitively searching for in a food or drink experience, regardless of the language they use to search for it, intelligently understanding flavor goals in context, and, ultimately, making it easier for people to discover experiences they are likely to enjoy.”

According to Altringer, the Flavor Genome Project is intended to be a platform that could be a foundation for other products, and the first of those product is a mobile game called Chef’s League. The iOS game allows players to compete to master the usage of different flavor characteristics such as “salt, sweetness, acidity, fat, spice, and more.”

Source: The Spoon

Read more about the Flavor Genome Project . . . . .

Watch video at vimeo (2:34 minutes) . . . . .

Quitting Alcohol May Improve Mental Well-being, Health-related Quality of Life

Quitting alcohol may improve health-related quality of life for women, especially their mental well-being, according to a study from Hong Kong published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

“More evidence suggests caution in recommending moderate drinking as part of a healthy diet,” says Dr. Michael Ni, School of Public Health and The State Key Laboratory of Brain and Cognitive Science, University of Hong Kong (HKU).

The study carried out by Dr. Xiaoxin Yao, Dr. Michael Ni, Dr. Herbert Pang and colleagues at HKU included 10 386 people from the FAMILY Cohort in Hong Kong who were nondrinkers or moderate drinkers (14 drinks or less per week for men and 7 drinks or less per week for women) between 2009 and 2013. The researchers compared their findings with data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, a representative survey of 31 079 people conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in the United States.

The mean age of participants in the FAMILY Cohort was 49 years and 56% were women. About 64% of men were nondrinkers (abstainers and former drinkers) and almost 88% of women were nondrinkers. Men and women who were lifetime abstainers had the highest level of mental well-being at the start of the study (baseline). For women who were moderate drinkers and quit drinking, quitting was linked to a favourable change in mental well-being in both Chinese and American study populations. These results were apparent after adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics, body mass index, smoking status, and other factors.

“Global alcohol consumption is expected to continue to increase unless effective strategies are employed,” says Dr. Ni. “Our findings suggest caution in recommendations that moderate drinking could improve health-related quality of life. Instead, quitting drinking may be associated with a more favourable change in mental well-being, approaching the level of lifetime abstainers.”

Source: Science Daily

Study Suggests Possible Link between Sugary Drinks and Cancer

A study published by The BMJ reports a possible association between higher consumption of sugary drinks and and an increased risk of cancer.

While cautious interpretation is needed, the findings add to a growing body of evidence indicating that limiting sugary drink consumption, together with taxation and marketing restrictions, might contribute to a reduction in cancer cases.

The consumption of sugary drinks has increased worldwide during the last few decades and is convincingly associated with the risk of obesity, which in turn is recognised as a strong risk factor for many cancers. But research on sugary drinks and the risk of cancer is still limited.

So a team of researchers based in France set out to assess the associations between the consumption of sugary drinks (sugar sweetened beverages and 100% fruit juices), artificially sweetened (diet) beverages, and risk of overall cancer, as well as breast, prostate, and bowel (colorectal) cancers.

Their findings are based on 101,257 healthy French adults (21% men; 79% women) with an average age of 42 years at inclusion time from the NutriNet-Santé cohort study.

Participants completed at least two 24-hour online validated dietary questionnaires, designed to measure usual intake of 3,300 different food and beverage items and were followed up for a maximum of 9 years (2009-2018).

Daily consumption of sugary drinks (sugar sweetened beverages and 100% fruit juices) and artificially sweetened (diet) beverages were calculated and first cases of cancer reported by participants were validated by medical records and linked with health insurance national databases.

Several well known risk factors for cancer, such as age, sex, educational level, family history of cancer, smoking status and physical activity levels, were taken into account.

Average daily consumption of sugary drinks was greater in men than in women (90.3 mL v 74.6 mL, respectively). During follow-up 2,193 first cases of cancer were diagnosed and validated (693 breast cancers, 291 prostate cancers, and 166 colorectal cancers). Average age at cancer diagnosis was 59 years.

The results show that a 100 mL per day increase in the consumption of sugary drinks was associated with an 18% increased risk of overall cancer and a 22% increased risk of breast cancer.

When the group of sugary drinks was split into fruit juices and other sugary drinks, the consumption of both beverage types was associated with a higher risk of overall cancer. No association was found for prostate and colorectal cancers, but numbers of cases were more limited for these cancer locations.

In contrast, the consumption of artificially sweetened (diet) beverages was not associated with a risk of cancer, but the authors warn that caution is needed in interpreting this finding owing to a relatively low consumption level in this sample.

Possible explanations for these results include the effect of the sugar contained in sugary drinks on visceral fat (stored around vital organs such as the liver and pancreas), blood sugar levels, and inflammatory markers, all of which are linked to increased cancer risk.

Other chemical compounds, such as additives in some sodas might also play a role, they add.

This is an observational study, so can’t establish cause, and the authors say they cannot rule out some misclassification of beverages or guarantee detection of every new cancer case.

Nevertheless, the study sample was large and they were able to adjust for a wide range of potentially influential factors. What’s more, the results were largely unchanged after further testing, suggesting that the findings withstand scrutiny.

These results need replication in other large scale studies, say the authors.

“These data support the relevance of existing nutritional recommendations to limit sugary drink consumption, including 100% fruit juice, as well as policy actions, such as taxation and marketing restrictions targeting sugary drinks, which might potentially contribute to the reduction of cancer incidence,” they conclude.

Source: BMJ

Scientists Engineer A Smooth, Bitterless, and Beanless Coffee

Jodi Helmer wrote . . . . . . . . .

Before Jarret Stopforth takes his first sip of coffee, he adds cream and sugar to mask the bitterness.

But then, he thought, why settle for a regular cup of joe? So the food scientist decided to reengineer coffee, brewing it without the bitterness — or the bean. “I started thinking, we have to be able to break coffee down to its core components and look at how to optimize it,” he explains.

Stopforth, who has worked with other food brands such as Chobani, Kettle & Fire and Soylent, partnered with entrepreneur Andy Kleitsch to launch Atomo. The pair turned a Seattle garage into a brewing lab and spent four months running green beans, roasted beans and brewed coffee through gas and liquid chromatography to separate and catalog more than 1,000 compounds in coffee to create a product that had the same color, aroma, flavor and mouthfeel as coffee.

“As we got deeper into the process, we learned more about the threats to the coffee world as a whole — threats to the environment from deforestation, global warming and [a devastating fungus called] rust, and we were even more committed to making a consistently great coffee that was also better for the environment,” Stopforth says.

The future of coffee is uncertain. The amount of land suitable for growing coffee is expected to shrink by an estimated 50% by 2050, according to a report by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture.

A concept steeped in history

Atomo won’t reveal exactly what its beanless coffee is made of, but the company says it is a mixture of dozens of compounds found in food, such as antioxidants, flavonoids and coffee acids. Atomo adds caffeine to its blend.

Atomo, which is slated to release its first products in 2020, is not the first to brew coffee without beans. Other startups have made the popular beverage with foods ranging from mushrooms to acorns but have failed to gain market share.

But chicory is proof that beanless coffee can catch on. Made from the roasted ground root of its namesake plant, chicory dates back to the 1800s, when coffee shortages forced people to seek substitutes, and has since become a staple in New Orleans.

“When coffee importation became limited, we turned to chicory, which is, essentially, roasted pieces of wood. Never once would we have dreamed of going out deliberately to experience coffee not really made of coffee, but it worked,” says Christopher Hendon, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Oregon who studies the properties of coffee. “We have an immense power to be able to re-create flavors that occur in a product like coffee to a level that’s almost indiscernible.”

Getting the ratios right required drinking (and spitting out) several inferior concoctions, and just when Stopforth and Kleitsch started wondering if their science experiment was possible, something happened.

“One of the early prototypes that we created in Jarret’s garage did not have any chlorogenic acid, which is the compound that contributes to the bitterness in coffee,” Kleitsch recalls. “We gave this cup of coffee to Jarret’s wife and she said, ‘This is what coffee should taste like.’ It had the flavor and aroma of coffee without that bitterness.”

A taste test at the University of Washington, where Kleitsch serves on the board of the entrepreneurship program, produced rave reviews for Atomo. Graduate student Taylor Moore tried the coffee and says, “I like my coffee with cream and sugar, but I tried it and thought, ‘I could drink this black,’ which would be novel for me. It was really tasty.”

Brewing a market for alternative coffee

The taste test was just one method Stopforth and Kleitsch used to assess demand. Their Kickstarter campaign, which raised just over $25,000, helped the startup presell its product and draw the attention of investors. Atomo just completed its first round of funding (the total investment has not been released) but the team is confident that it’ll have their still-in-development beanless coffee on the market in 2020.

“We wanted to maintain the ritual component of coffee, of waking up in the morning and putting grounds into the coffeemaker, and we wanted to replicate that scoop for scoop,” Kleitsch says. They maintained the caffeine content too.

Despite the fact Atomo makes its products without coffee beans, it can still be called coffee because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not have a “standard of identity” or official definition for coffee.

“We’ll be very clear that our coffee doesn’t come from a bean. In fact, we’ll be very proud to say that, and there will be truth in labeling so we’re not deceiving the consumer. But because there is no official regulatory definition, we can still call it coffee,” Stopforth says.

Hendon has sipped countless cups of coffee in the name of research, and is eager to sample Atomo when it hits the market. Even if it is a smooth cup of coffee, he suspects consumers might be skeptical. But he adds, “I sincerely hope that the product is excellent, and they can figure out a way to navigate the difficult space of selling a concoction of compounds that is perceived to be similar to that of coffee. The chemistry of it all is definitely interesting.”

Source: npr