Sunday, July 24, 2011

Chocolate, Coffee and Vanilla

It is a nice summer day, but I tired myself out in the heat. So I had some chocolate, which tasted pretty good.

I have been thinking about flavors lately, especially trace flavors in wine, and I thought I'd look up chocolate. The main one is theobromide, which has the wonderful Greek root meaning "food of the gods." Cocoa beans are so highly processed that other ingredients vary.

Caffeine is much like theobromide.
Imagine this rotated 180 degrees to
see the similarity.
Theobromide is related to another caffeine, and the structures are similar.

My wife points out Cage Baker's Immortal's series has a race of people addicted to theobromide. JR Rowling gave chocolate magically properties to drive away demons of depression. I think both ladies just liked chocolate.

Caffeine used to be my friend, but now I avoid it. Both theobromide and caffeine are stimulants, but caffeine is stronger. Both are diuretics too. Of course there is a little caffeine in chocolate. There is no theobromide in coffee though.

One of my favorite flavors is vanilla, and natural vanilla contains dozens of compounds. The prototype is vanillin.  I like this because as wood ages with wine, the tannins in the wine breakdown, and the wine reduces the tannins into aldehydes like vanillin. This breakdown is a mysterious process.  There is no theobromide or caffeine in (normal) wine.