Video: White, Green, Black, and Oolong Tea: What’s the Difference?

Did you know that many different types of tea come from the same plant?

It’s pretty amazing, considering the various flavors and colors, but what really sets each tea apart are the chemical changes that happen in the leaves during production.

In this video, we’re going to debunk a couple of myths behind the healthful and flavorful compounds found in each type of tea.

Watch video at You Tube (4:40 minutes) . . . .

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Hong Kong Startup Develops Cultured Fish Maw

Reconstituted Dried Fish Maw

Catherine Lamb wrote . . . . . . . . .

Last week we wrote a think piece about how cultured meat — that is, meat grown outside the animal in a lab setting — will likely debut in Asia. Part of the reasoning behind this is because of all the innovative cellular agriculture startups popping up in the area, targeting local cultural demands and restrictions.

One of said innovative startups is Avant Meats, a new cell-based meat company operating out of Hong Kong. Avant Meats isn’t developing cultured burgers, sausages, steaks, or tuna — but fish maw.

Many Westerners (the author included) have never come across fish maw, or dried swim bladder. Upon first glance it might seem like an odd choice. But there are a few very good reasons why Avant Meats is starting with this particular food item:

First and foremost, it’s easy(er) to make. Unlike a cut of meat like steak, which requires muscle cells, fat cells, and connective tissue, fish maw is made up of only one cell type. That simplicity allows Avant Meats to grow a fish maw from scratch in as little as one and a half months. “The route to scaling up is much simpler,” Avant Meats CEO and co-founder Carrie Chan told me over the phone.

The choice of fish maw was also a strategic nod to Avant Meats’ target demographic: consumers in China and Hong Kong. “Our food culture is very different from the West,” said Chan. Dried fish swim bladder is considered a delicacy in traditional Chinese cuisine, prized for its texture and purported health benefits.

There’s also an environmental aspect at play. Fish maw is in such high demand in China that the two main fish species that are hunted for it — Bahaba and Totoba — are on the brink of extinction. There are even black markets dedicated to the bladders, which can fetch up to HK$1 million ($~127,000) per kilogram. “It’s similar to shark fin,” explained Chan.

Finally, there’s a health and safety consideration. China struggles with food traceability issues. In fact, last year a study from Food Control found that more than half of the fish fillets sold under commercial brands were mislabeled. By growing food in a lab — especially products as rare and coveted as fish maw — consumers can know exactly what they’re getting and where it came from.

As noted in the intro, Avant Meats isn’t the only cell-based meat company targeting Asia as their launch pad. JUST, who is aiming to be the first to bring cultured meat to market, announced recently that the product will likely debut in Asia. In Singapore, Shiok Meats is developing cell-based crustaceans. Part of the reason so many cultured meat companies are looking to Asia is because it has relatively looser regulatory standards, especially in Hong Kong.

Chan was hesitant to speak too much about the regulatory framework in Hong Kong, where Avant Meats is headquartered, but did admit that it’s an ideal place to launch a new food product. “It has a very robust market and lots of disposable income,” she told me.

Though they have a very developed strategy, Avant Meats is a very new startup — even in a field that’s quite new itself. Chan started the company in July of last year, and was recently joined by Dr. Mario Chin, her co-founder and the company’s CSO (and only other employee).

Considering their late start and lean team, Avant Meats likely won’t be part of the first wave of companies selling clean meat. Chan said that they expect to have a commercial product out in three to four years, though they’ll be doing taste tests of their fish maw in Q3 or Q4 of this year. But she believes their strategy to start with a simple, unique product will help them stand out. “We’re starting behind the other guys, so we better find something that’s commercially more pragmatic,” she explained.

Fish maw is just the first stepping stone for the company. Down the road, Avant Meats will expand their lineup, developing more complex seafood products. Chan told me that next they’ll look into making sea cucumber. Their end goal is to make an entire fish filet, likely using some scaffolding to help emulate the texture.

Chan didn’t specify what type of fish they would be tackling. There are a couple cellular aquaculture companies further along in the development process. Finless Foods is developing cell-based bluefin tuna, and Wild Type is growing salmon.

However, both these companies are based in the U.S. Avant Meats’ Hong Kong HQ and strategic product choice could help them stand out in a field that’s getting more exciting — and more crowded — by the day.

Source: The Spoon

Video: Death By Toilet Bowl Cleaning?

When things start looking grimy in the bathroom, and it’s time to whip out yellow gloves, the only thing that matters is getting the job done as soon as possible.

So you open the cabinet, see a bunch of bottles and think “Hey, this cleans and that cleans, why not mix them all together? That’ll kill dirt and grime faster!”

Think again – your all purpose cleaning cocktail could turn a bad day even worse. Can death by toilet bowl cleaning really happen?

Watch video at You Tube (5:19 minutes) . . . . .

What Makes the Deadly Pufferfish So Delectable

Some people consider pufferfish, also known as fugu, a delicacy because of its unique and exquisite flavor, which is perhaps seasoned by knowledge that consumption of the fish could be deadly. Now, researchers have identified the major compounds responsible for the taste of pufferfish, minus the thrill of living dangerously. They report their results in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Pufferfish get their name from their ability to inflate to a much larger size when threatened by predators. But if that defense mechanism fails, the predator may not survive long after its meal: The liver, ovaries, eyes and skin of most species of pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin, a potent neurotoxin. Although specially trained chefs can prepare fugu that’s safe to eat, Yuan Liu and colleagues wondered if they could reproduce the flavor of pufferfish without the life-threatening toxin.

The researchers analyzed the key taste-active compounds in Takifugu obscurus, a species of pufferfish found mainly in the East and South China Seas. First, the team ground up pufferfish muscle tissue and cooked, filtered and centrifuged it to produce a liquid pufferfish extract. They then analyzed the extract and found amounts of 28 potential taste compounds, such as free amino acids, nucleotides and inorganic ions. Taste tests with trained panelists revealed that 12 of these compounds, when added to water, best simulated the flavor of pufferfish, which involved strong umami (savory) and kokumi (mouthfulness) components. When the researchers added two flavor peptides they isolated in a prior study, the imitation pufferfish extract tasted even more like the real thing.

Source : American Chemical Society

Scientists Hacked Photosynthesis In Search Of More Productive Crops

Dan Charles wrote . . . . . . . . .

There’s a big molecule, a protein, inside the leaves of most plants. It’s called Rubisco, which is short for an actual chemical name that’s very long and hard to remember.

Amanda Cavanagh, a biologist and post-doctoral researcher at the University of Illinois, calls herself a big fan of Rubisco. “It’s probably the most abundant protein in the world,” she says. It’s also super-important.

Rubisco has one job. It picks up carbon dioxide from the air, and it uses the carbon to make sugar molecules. It gets the energy to do this from the sun. This is photosynthesis, the process by which plants use sunlight to make food, a foundation of life on Earth. Yay for Rubisco!

“But it has what we like to call one fatal flaw,” Cavanagh continues. Unfortunately, Rubisco isn’t picky enough about what it grabs from the air. It also picks up oxygen. “When it does that, it makes a toxic compound, so the plant has to detoxify it.”

Plants have a whole complicated chemical assembly line to carry out this detoxification, and the process uses up a lot of energy. This means the plant has less energy for making leaves, or food for us. (There is a family of plants, including corn and sugar cane, that developed another type of workaround for Rubisco, and those plants are much more productive.)

Cavanagh and her colleagues in a research program called Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE), which is based at the University of Illinois, have spent the last five years trying to fix Rubisco’s problem. “We’re sort of hacking photosynthesis,” she says.

They experimented with tobacco plants, just because tobacco is easy to work with. They inserted some new genes into these plants, which shut down the existing detoxification assembly line and set up a new one that’s way more efficient. And they created super tobacco plants. “They grew faster, and they grew up to 40 percent bigger” than normal tobacco plants, Cavanagh says. These measurements were done both in greenhouses and open-air field plots.

The scientists now are trying to do the same thing with plants that people actually rely on for food, like tomatoes and soybeans. They also working with cowpeas, or black-eyed peas, “because it’s a staple food crop for a lot of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, which is where our funders are interested in making the biggest impact,” Cavanagh says.

The funders of this project include the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (Disclosure: The Gates Foundation also funds NPR.) The USDA has applied for a patent on plants that are engineered in this way.

Cavanagh and her colleagues published their work this week in the journal Science. Maureen Hanson, who is carrying out similar research on photosynthesis at Cornell University, was impressed.

“This is a very important finding,” she says. “It’s really the first major breakthrough showing that one can indeed engineer photosynthesis and achieve a major increase in crop productivity.”

It will be many years, though, before any farmers plant crops with this new version of photosynthesis. Researchers will have to find out whether it means that a food crop like soybeans actually produces more beans — or just more stalks and leaves.

Then they’ll need to convince government regulators and consumers that the crops are safe to grow and eat.

Source: npr