One bite to a taste sensation

By Euphoric · Aug 13, 2009 ·
  1. Euphoric
    One bite to a taste sensation

    Small red fruit alters your tongue's abilities

    Everyone in Tyler Clark Burke's home is tripping on berry.

    Guests are handed a bright red, almond-sized fruit and told to bite into the flesh, letting it coat the tongue, before spitting out the pit. The West African berry (Synsepalum dulcificum) or miracle berry, contains the protein miraculin, which alters the perceptions of flavours. Basically it makes everything taste sweeter.

    Burke has laid out a selection of foods to sample the berry's effects: lemons, limes, grapefruit, vinegar, tequila, Guinness beer, sour candies, cherries, onions, garlic and green Thai chilies.

    Under the influence, all agree that it makes lemons taste like lemonade.

    The chili pepper is handed around a circle of friends, each person taking a small bite and passing it clockwise. Web video producer Nick Den Boer bites into the chili without incident. As he is "coming down" off berry, he tries the chili again. Wide-eyed, he dashes to the kitchen for water. "I can't believe I ate one of those half an hour ago," he chokes. "No problem. Now it's killing me."

    He enjoys the whole experience and would do it again with another set of foods.

    One couple says that they would like to go out to eat all berried up, though not at an expensive restaurant.

    "Eating a regular meal would be the strangest experience," he says.

    She adds, "It would be like going to a restaurant on mushrooms."

    The berry is not an intoxicant. It won't affect judgment or motor control. Cherries might taste really sweet, but you're still cool to drive.

    The harmless sensory experience lasts about an hour. However, while a glass of lemon juice tastes like lemonade, the change is only the perception of taste. It is still a glass of lemon juice, inadvisable to chug. Stomachs do not like cupfuls of citric acid.

    Artist, co-founder of Three-Gut Records and party promoter Burke, together with her partner, designer Jeremy Stewart, is importing the berry from Florida and distributing it in Toronto through her website (

    They are planning to host a party this week at The Drake Hotel. Close Quarters: A Taste Tripping Party is scheduled for Thursday at 8 p.m. Admission is $25 and includes berries, plus a collection of tasting foods.

    Having heard raves about the miracle berry from her musician friend Leslie Feist, Burke began this venture before trying it. "I am a calculated risk taker. I've done a lot of research."

    Sure, the berries have been around for years in New York and Tokyo. They recently earned their very own ludicrously ingenious murder scheme on a recent episode of CSI: New York.

    It may seem evidence of our Johnny-come-lately international status for Toronto to be getting in on the action at this point. But now it is endorsed by rock-star Feist. That means it's cool.

    On the other hand, it's uncool because, according to Health Canada, it is legal to sell and consume the berry, so long as it is not being used as an additive and no medicinal claims are made.

    Promotional material on Burke's site claims "Lemons taste sugar-coated and vinegar like honey wine."

    On the Drake site the description says: "Expect Tabasco sauce to taste like donuts and lemons to taste like candy."

    Not quite.

    The juice of the berry itself carries undertones close to smoky caramel. Its effects are more accurately described as a suppression of sour flavours and augmentation of sweet flavours. Watery imported strawberries, all white inside, taste like they're dusted with powdered sugar. Granny Smith apples taste like Fujis.

    But not everything is affected and not everyone's taste buds are alike.

    Burke's sister Wylie winces as she sips white vinegar from a crystal wine glass. "It's still vinegar, not appealing."

    "I think I should have tried it sooner. I think the berry may have worn off a bit."

    Coming down is always the roughest part of the trip.

    Aug 10, 2009 04:30 AM
    Corey Mintz
    Staff Reporter

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