Can’t get enough of chocolates? Thank, or blame,the microbes.

A “tablea tsokalate” without the grainy texture and bitter, burnt-like taste of some commercially produced tablea, will be one of several biotechnology applications to be featured during the National Biotechnology Week from November 23 – 28, 2015 at the SM City Dasmariñas, Cavite.

This better and more delicious version of the tablea chocolate is the product of a study by UP Los Baños scientists headed by Dr. Jessica Simbahan, and funded by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD).

Cacao beans, from which chocolates are made, must first undergo fermentation wherein bacteria, yeasts, and other microorganisms chemically break down the beans. Fermentation takes around three to six days and is usually carried out in baskets, boxes, trays or heaps covered with banana leaves. This process gives chocolates a fuller and richer flavor and aroma.

For their study, the scientists investigated cacao fermentation practices in various parts of the country.   Then they developed a concoction of carefully selected yeasts, lactic acid bacteria and other beneficial fungi isolated from local cacao fermentation. The concoction, called a starter culture, can be introduced to natural cocoa fermentation environment to enhance or hasten the fermentation process and produce consistent product quality. The resulting product will be one of the attractions of this year’s National Biotechnology Week via a taste test at the DOST booth during opening day of the week-long event on November 23.

Apart from the starter culture, Dr. Simbahan’s team also developed a “Cacao Best Practices Manual” that will be released soon for the benefit of local cocoa bean farmers and processors.

These projects ultimately aim to produce better quality products that are locally and globally competitive.

The National Biotechnology Week aims to highlight the contributions of biotechnology or the use of biological processes, organisms, cells or cellular components to develop new technologies for use in agriculture, health, and environment among others.

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