The Sense of Cocoa 

Fighting taste lose through synesthesia experiments

Dysgeusia is a word used to describe the distortions affecting the sense of taste. About 17% of the population suffers from it – including cancer patients going through chemotherapy.

Dysgeusia makes food taste differently: some times metallic, some times acid, and some times with no flavor at all.

Since dysgeusia has no other effect besides compromising the sense of taste, it hardly gets any attention. It took a chef – the Michelin-starred pastry chef Jordi Roca – to ask the question: can we make people feel the taste of chocolate even if they can't taste its flavor? Yes, we can, through data, technology, and emotions.

Teaming up with Jordi Roca and a group or neuroscientists and neuro-gastronomy experts, we designed and created an immersive experience with the challenge to make 7 patients suffering from dysgeusia recover the ability to taste chocolate. Starting from their first memories with cocoa, we created a personalized path for each person that combined stimuli especially prepared to evoke sensorial capabilities.

Patients would enter an individual cabin in which sensorial visual projections, musical pitches, and storytelling were used to raise their reception sensors to the top. With their senses at the maximum level, they tasted a pastry made by the chef.

Each and every stimulus used in our experience derived from clinical and emotional interviews, and in order to make this data visible we prepared an editorial booklet of the experience. We crafted watercolor maps for each patient, to visualize the relation between clinical diagnostics – the level of sensorial abilities of each patient – and emotional background – their individual memories related to cocoa, to help understand how we all create our own sense of chocolate, and how it's different for each and every one of us.

The booklet also includes the original recipe created by Jordi Roca especially for them.