It is quite intriguing to hear from time to time about expeditions that take scientists into tropical forests to study unknown species of plants or animals as illustrated by the 1992 film Medicine Man in which Sean Connery examines the medical properties of the rain forest flora.
It is no surprise that similar attempts have appeared recently in the flavor industry. Givaudan, for example, is known for organizing its TasteTrek in which scientists use a sort of dynamic headspace apparatus to capture volatiles of exotic fruits. Similarly, IFF’s Living Flower and Living Fruit programs have employed solid phase microextraction to capture the smell of uncut vegetation. Top companies furthermore organize treks for their flavorists and perfumers to get to know raw materials in the authentic environment. The driving force for such efforts is an assumption that in the exotic condition it is easier to find surprising flavors or scents. Nevertheless, it is still possible to find interesting smells closer to home.
Origins of a Flavor Mystery
I was brought up in a small village in central Slovakia. In the boring era of the Slovak Socialist Republic that ended in 1990, it was quite difficult to find exotic fruits in the groceries. Bananas or mandarins were mostly accessible only if you were a good friend with the shop assistant. On rare occasions, however, large supplies of sweet green oranges and canned mangoes would arrive from Cuba. When I tasted the mangoes for the first time, I was quite surprised and told myself, “This taste I know.”