I Tried It: Miracle Berries

It's a Christmas miracle(berry)!

I first heard about miracle berries while listening to the audio book of Tasty: The Art and Science of What We Eat by John McQuaid. (Side note: this book is absolutely fantastic and you should definitely seek it out. It will have you excitedly texting facts about how we taste to your significant other.) In the book, John McQuaid introduces the reader to Homaro Cantu, the Chicago-based chef behind innovations such as edible menus (made from soy paper) and carbonated fruit. Before Cantu's death in 2015, he was set to open a new concept restaurant in Chicago called Berrista Coffee that was going to focus on the miracle berry. 

Cantu first started studying the miracle berry when one of his friends undergoing chemotherapy said that her treatments had affected her taste buds, making everything taste metallic. The miracle berry is from the miracle fruit, which is native to West Africa and contains a glycoprotein called miraculin that binds to the tongue and creates a sweet sensation. When eaten, it alters your taste buds for about 30 to 45 minutes, amplifying sweetness and altering the flavors of bland, bitter, and sour foods. Cantu even published a miracle berry cookbook intended for dieters, diabetics, and chemo patients.

After learning more about the miracle berry and Cantu's work with it, I was curious to try them myself. I had read the reviews for the mberry Miracle Fruit Tablets and most of them sang the praises of the tablets as well as "palate trips" they experienced. 

The foods I decided to try with the miracle berry tablets were a lemon, a grapefruit, apple cider vinegar, plain Greek non-fat yogurt, and sour pickles. The beers I decided to try with the miracle berry tablets were Squeeze Box, a grapefruit IPA from SweetWater Brewing, and the Wild Sour Series Flanders Red from Destihl.

The first step is to let an mBerry tablet completely dissolve on your tongue, which takes about 10 minutes. The tablets come in a blister pack and look a little bit like Advil. You have to work the tablet around in your mouth quite a bit and really get your saliva glands going. It's tempting to chew up the last little piece, but stay patient and let it dissolve instead. The effects of the tablet should last about 30 minutes.

Once my tablet was completely dissolved, it was time to see what it did to my taste buds. The tablet itself left a little bit of a sweet residue feeling in my mouth, not unlike any dissolvable tablet. My first item to try was the plain Greek yogurt. If you've never had Greek yogurt before, it tastes very similar to sour cream but is a bit tangier and has a firmer texture to it. With the tablet, instead of tasting tangy and somewhat sour, it tasted more like cream cheese or like the super sugar-laden yogurt you can buy that's supposed to taste like a dessert. It was light and had a sweet-with-some-sour flavor to it.

The next item I tried was a wedge of lemon. After a moment's hesitation, I ended up going for it and bit down deep into the wedge. Instead of being mouth-puckering sour, it tasted just like homemade lemonade. The lemon flavor was amplified and had a medium amount of sugar flavor to it. The sugar wasn't quite as prominent as it was with the yogurt, which may be a difference between the lactose sugars of the yogurt and the fructose sugars of the lemon. The grapefruit was next, which was a similar experience to the lemon - there was no bitterness and the fruit flavor was light, bright, and sugary.

Feeling emboldened, I went to the apple cider vinegar next. I drink apple cider vinegar (ACV to those in the know) almost every morning, so I am familiar with the taste of it, although I don't think it's possible for anyone to get used to the flavor of ACV - I drink it nearly every day and still can't stop myself from shuddering, making bitter beer face, and/or coughing every time. This was the most strange and uncomfortable experience. Because the mBerry tablet only coats your tongue, it doesn't affect your orthonasal olfaction, so ACV still smells like ACV - sharp, acidic, and vinegary. It's very strange to smell ACV and then taste it, only to have it not taste like ACV at all. There was a ton of apple flavor and it almost seemed like I was drinking apple cider without the vinegar part. At least until it hit my esophagus and burned like crazy all the way down. It was extremely uncomfortable and I don't remember having that burning sensation normally. I'm thinking my body can prepare itself for the burn when the vinegar hits my usually uninhibited palate and is more prepared for the shock of the acidity. This time it was like, "WHAT IS HAPPENING?!?" 

After what will now be known as The ACV Incident, I tried the sour pickle next. There was still some vinegar tang to it, but without the sour bite, it really wasn't all that great. It just tasted like a weird salty crunchy flavorless pickle. 

I had a similar experience with the Squeeze Box IPA from SweetWater. Without the bitterness from the hops, the grapefruit flavor was present, but wasn't the grapefruit bomb I was expecting and for which I was hoping. The maltiness was more noticeable than usual, but the most noticeable part of the beer was the carbonation. 

I saved the ultimate taste for last: the Wild Sour Series Flanders Red from Destihl. If you've never had one of Destihl's Wild Sour Series beers, you need to know that you have to be really into sour beers - like the sourness has to be one of the reasons you like sour beers. If the only sour beer you've ever had is a Destihl Wild Sour Series beer and you decided you didn't like sour beers based off that experience, I encourage you to try other sour beers because most are not as sour as the Wild Sour Series. I love the Wild Sour Series because they are so sour, but the sourness still gets me, much like the ACV still gets me. 

Drinking the Flanders Red Wild Sour Series with the mBerry tablet was an incredibly rewarding and enjoyable experience. Unlike the Squeeze Box, which was a little one-dimensional with the mBerry tablet, the Flanders Red tasted almost like a completely different beer. I was surprised by the complexity of it. The sour bite was almost completely gone, so I could enjoy the strong and robust cherry flavor along with the caramel and biscuit flavors of the malt. There was a lingering stone fruit type fruitiness to the flavor. If the slight amount of lactic sourness was not still present, I think the Flanders Red could have passed for a standard fruit beer. I finished the can of the Flanders Red (while writing this, actually), and it was interesting to detect the sour creeping back in as the mBerry tablet wore off.

Packets of the mBerry tablets are about $15.00 on Amazon or $25.00 for a pack of two, and there are 10 tablets per pack. It's a relatively small amount of money for the experience, which is a very cool experience. I'm interested to read more reviews from people who have tried mBerry tablets for medical or dietary reasons, because I can see how they would be very beneficial to someone who needs to cut down on sugar or is experiencing a change in his or her taste buds due to medication. I'm looking forward to having my family and friends try it out - I may even plan a palate trip party. 




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