Category Archives: MiracleFruit

Carbonation Not Just A Sensation

When you are drinking that can of cola you aren’t just feeling those tiny bubbles, you are also tasting them, according to a new paper entitled “The Taste Of Carbonation”. From the press release:

Ryba added that the taste of carbonation is quite deceptive. “When people drink soft drinks, they think that they are detecting the bubbles bursting on their tongue,” he said. “But if you drink a carbonated drink in a pressure chamber, which prevents the bubbles from bursting, it turns out the sensation is actually the same. What people taste when they detect the fizz and tingle on their tongue is a combination of the activation of the taste receptor and the somatosensory cells. That’s what gives carbonation its characteristic sensation.”

There are two crazy factoids here. The first is that the sensation is identical when the bubbles aren’t bursting, which seems to defy logic. You’d think there would be some sensory difference. Second, somewhere people are drinking and dining in a pressure chamber.

The scientists found that if they eliminated CA-IV from the sour-sensing cells or inhibited the enzyme’s activity, they severely reduced a mouse’s sense of taste for carbon dioxide. Thus CA-IV activity provides the primary signal detected by the taste system. As CA-IV is expressed on the surface of sour cells, Chandrashekar and co-workers concluded that the enzyme is ideally poised to generate an acid stimulus for detection by these cells when presented with carbon dioxide.

Given that CA-IV is expressed on the surface of sour cells, and that we can mask sour flavors using Miraculin (the active ingredient in Miracle Fruit) and other taste-modifiers, can we do some home brew experiments at home? I suspect you will still taste the fizz with Miraculin/Soda as I think Miraculin is used as a sweetener in soft drinks in Asia.

Why do mammals taste carbonation? The scientists are still not sure if carbon dioxide detection itself serves an important role or is just a consequence of the presence of CA-IV on the surface of the sour cells, where it may be located to help maintain the pH balance in taste buds. As Ryba says, ” That question remains very much open and is a good one to pursue in the future.”

I saw Dave Arnold speak awhile ago where he expressed a dislike for some of the culinary uses of carbonation, citing that the effect was similar to spoilage. Combine the fact that carbonation is detected by the sense of sour, and I think this really makes sense. It took a long time for me to have any tolerance for stronger sour tastes (yogurt, sour cream), because well, they tasted like spoiled product to me.

What really blows my mind is how little we understand about something as basic as taste. Growing up, we only had sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Today we have umami (savory). Maybe future generations will have ten tastes. And each time we discover one along the way, chefs will figure out how to coax those flavors out in a delicious way.

Miracle (Dis)Connect

**UPDATE:** They refunded my money and sent me tablets. While a frustrating experience, they did ultimately make me whole.

On June 3rd, Grub Street published a blog post entitled “Miracle Fruit Dealers Will Take You ‘Flavor Tripping’”. In it, they talk about the Miracle Fruit, a berry of West African origin that will temporarily invert your taste of sour for somewhere between 30 minutes – two hours. Obviously, that makes people like me excited.

They also mention a New York based company, Miracle Connect, that would deliver the berries to you within a week. That makes people like me incredibly excited. Buying temperature sufficiently raised, I purchased the berries through the website.

On June 20th, I still did not have my berries. I sent in a status request. Here was the reply:


Hey,

We’re getting more berries in two weeks! Sorry for the delay, we sold out after the Times and NY Mag stories.

Best,

NS

> Dear Miracle Connect:
>
> Can I get a quick status on my order? My receipt number is:
>
> ZZZZ-AAAA-YYYY-XXXX

I am a really patient man. Also a busy one. So I promptly forgot about it. Then today, on August 8th, I received the following e-mail:

Hi Miracle Connect Customer,
First and foremost, we’d like to apologize for the delay. The deluge of orders we received after Miracle Berries were written up in the New York Times far outstripped our capacity to provide them. (Our growers in Florida literally sold out of berries and now have waiting lists in excess of three months; buying more trees became impossible since they take years to mature.)

Rather than drag this out any longer, we’ve come up with a solution: we will send you (via mail) 10 Miracle Berry tablets for every 6 Miracle Fruits you ordered. The tablets work the same way, and last the same amount of time, with the added bonus that they don’t need to be preserved in the fridge. (They’re good for up to a month.) Each tablet is made from three actual Miracle Berries and, of course, makes things taste sweet.

If you’d like the tablets, just email MiracleConnect@gmail.com with your current address. (You may have changed your address, so this makes things easier.) If instead you’d like a refund, simply email us with REFUND in the
subject line. To those of you who have already gotten your berries, or gotten a refund, sorry for the email.

Again, sorry for the long delay and the inconvenience. But we’re excited to have a great solution.

Best,

MC

The offer of tablets in exchange for the fruit is really over-priced compared to what other internet-based miracle fruit. For example, my 6 berries (and now 10 tablets) cost 24$. A quick Internet search shows I can get the same delivered to me for 17$. Of course, it’s not about 7$. It’s about the principle… and… my berries. Taste-bud altering, magnificent berries.

Also, this e-mail was cc:d (not bcc:d) to about 216 other people. So, of course, an e-mail storm immediately erupted. Gems like:

You should have sent this email over a month ago. You might be backed up for 3 months, but it wouldn’t have taken you more than 20 minutes to tell us this. This was horrible customer service! I ordered my berries on June 6th, and out of 5 emails, this is the first reply Ive ever heard from you. I was actually able to pick up my berries from the Garden of Eden a week ago! And after the horrendous service and communication Ive received from your company, I refuse to patronize your company anymore. I definitely want my money back!

Or how about this:

For those that remain, I contacted Neel Shah of Miracle Connect a few days ago and informed him that I had contacted my Attorney General, and was preparing to call the NYPD. Despite having sent multiple emails over the last few months, I very suddenly received a refund via PayPal, and an email from Shah alluding to some unfortunate personal circumstances. Ok, shit happens. But still.

Anyway. If you do not receive a refund promptly, let me know and I’ll be able to provide all contact information for the gentlemen involved in Miracle Connect. Don’t bother with the Better Business Bureau or PayPal. Call your state Attorney General, and the NYPD. Both have divisions specifically designed to handle this.

More confirmation that they are over-charging:


I wasn’t going to reply to the whole list. But I let them know I wasn’t happy with their offer. I ordered 6 fruits and paid $45 dollars or so with shipping. They are offering me 10 tablets in return. I can buy 10 tablets for $11.99 + $3.00 shipping on a ton of websites.

And let’s not forget about:


I felt the same frustration and after e-mailing Neel multiple times and finally threatening to take legal action he told me his mother had passed away and I had the tablets hand-delivered to my apartment the next day. I haven’t tried them yet though, so who knows…

Which got this response:

His mother died?!? Oh please! Even if she did,then that is something that needed to be conveyed. When you run a business, you dont allow your personal matters to get in the way of serving the hundreds of customers that are waiting for your product. He was certainly not too busy with his “mother’s death” to cease granting interviews. I read so many new articles of people interviewing him about the berries and who he gets his berries from, etc. etc. When I had a family member die, I was out of work for 3 days. I even understand as much as a week. But you dont roll into a ball and then just dismiss your entire business. None of us take off two months from work when we have a tradgedy in the family!!! And in his delayed response, I lost any ability to recoupe my money through PayPal at all.(They only have a 45 day complaint window.) Thankfully I used my AmEx card and was able to file a dispute through them. Personally I dont believe his mother passed away at all… at least not over the last two months. My now very cynical belief is that that is just an excuse to cover for his delayed response.

And I apologize to those that are now receiving all these extra emails, but I agree with Andrew. Everyone should know that they were not the only ones who experienced such bad customer service.

People are obviously angry and rightfully so. I’d still like to believe this is incompetence and not malice. If he lied about his mother dying that’s pretty terrible too.

Either way:

REFUND.