By: Rafael Tonon
We love chocolate in any way: with nuts, fruits, crispys, plain, dark, white… Putting a piece of chocolate inside the mouth and let it slowly melt is one of the best sensations a human can indulge regarding food. The sweetness, the velvety creaminess spreading all over the tongue, the instant pleasure we can feel from this.
But a Japanese designer wondered how he could to make this “chocolate amusement” even deeper – and, of course, longer. Oki Sato is the founder of Nendo, a design studio based in Tokyo and Milan that focuses on changing the way people relate to things. Sato is a huge chocolate fan and started thinking if there was a possible way to enhance the experience of eating a piece of chocolate.
His first experience were chocolate pencils created in collaboration with patissier Tsujiguchi Hironobu. “We wanted our plates to show off the beauty of meals and desserts like a painting on a canvas”, says the presentation text from Nendo. Based on this idea, the pencils (made of cocoa blends that vary in intensity) came in a set kit with a “pencil sharpener” – so one could use the pencil filings that remain from sharpening a pencil as chocolate flakes. Since they are usually the unwanted remains of sharpening, they wanted to make these filings the real stars.
Years later he took this same idea to a different level by creating a kind of set of oil paints made from chocolate. The chocolate tubes contained a variety of colors made with a variety of flavored syrups – different fillings to pose as paints.
In 2016, Sato decided to go further: he came up with a chocolate flask that can hold up to 5 different flavors (from mango and raspberry to a popping candy that bursts in your mouth) cointained in test tubes. “We thought that by applying this skill to produce a vessel out of the chocolate, innovative flavors could be created”, says Nendo.
But even if the ideas could bring a whimsical childhood-related excitement of using pencils and paints, or creating customized chocolate flasks, they were only transforming the form, not actually the content, nor the experience of literally eating the chocolate itself.
So the designer focused his inventiveness in creating a more transforming experience, considering not only the enchanting relation with the product, but also the contact of the chocolate with our tongue, how the texture could enhance the experience.
His first studies from “chocolatexture” series was to prove that the shape of chocolate can also affect its flavor and resulted in a line of 9 chocolate candies made in the same size (26x26x26mm). The square-shaped pieces differed by featuring pointed tips, hollow interiors, smooth or rough surface textures. Each chocolate was directly named after Japanese expressions used to describe textures, such as “tubu-tubu”(chunks of smaller chocolate drops), “suka-suka” (a hollow cube with thin walls) and “toge-toge” (sharp pointed tips).
“In coming up with a new chocolate concept, we turned our attention not only to such factors, but to the chocolate’s shape”, Nendo explains. In this case, the raw materials were identical, and the distinctive textures could create the different tastes.
Last year, Sato developed an improved version of this, creating different texture experiences from the exactely same “source”: “chocolatexturebar” is a chocolate bar made with the same raw materials but with diverse textures in each piece, “and different tastes created from those distinctive textures”. The single bar surface was divided into 12 squares with diversely textured faces—stripes, dots, zigzags, checkered, and wave patterns. There were 5 different chocolate flavors: milk, strawberry, white, bitter and matcha.
He went deeper in his researches to show how these distinctive textures could create distintive sensorial experiences regarding flavors in our brains. As Nendo says: “actually the taste is recognized after going through various procedures such as ‘place on top of the tongue’, ‘bite’, ‘roll inside the mouth’, ‘melt’ and ‘swallow’”.
Summing it up, Sato created different texture surfaces in each square piece of a chocolate bar to offer different perceptions of flavor. “By tasting each face with the tongue,” Nendo explains, “one can enjoy a new taste dimension that is unlike any other conventional chocolates.”
By adding a textural component to heighten the eating experience, he could prove how the form and the texture can really create a new layer of flavor capable of transforming our eating experience. And we have to recognize it: Sato did that in the most delicious way.