Bookmarks–January 30, 2024

In my first Bookmarks post of the year–late because of a nagging arm injury–a wide-ranging roundup of food-related news, including the controversy surrounding salted tea, warnings about sugar in gummy supplements and caffeine in “charged” drinks, and the very interesting history of Surinamese rice. Plus, tips on how to store chocolate.

We tested and the Brits are wrong: you should be adding salt to your tea

A brewing controversy has emerged over the idea of adding salt to black tea. Science says it helps mellow the flavour while British tradition says otherwise. 

“Regardless of the consensus here, I think we can all agree the King’s subjects need to chill. Not every conversation about tea needs to involve them! (After all, when was the last time anyone asked the Italians how best to pull a shot of espresso?) Let this be a reminder that there are plenty of other countries that drink the beverage religiously. And with that, I bid you a hearty ta-ta and cheerio, as the British may very well be readying to come for us now.” (Serious Eats)

Gummy vitamins are just candy

I’m from the Flintstones vitamin generation, so I am well acquainted with the notion of candy-as-vitamin. But it seems like the idea has proliferated beyond the children’s market to adults, with dubious results. Overdosing and high sugar content make gummy vitamins highly suspect. 

“The more significant problem, Cooperman told me, is that gummies are simply a less reliable delivery mechanism than the alternatives. Vitamins and many other compounds degrade far faster in gummies’ half-liquid, half-solid state than in traditional pill or capsule form, he said, because gummies offer less protection from heat, light, moisture, and other contaminants…To compensate, supplement makers will in many cases load their products with far more of a substance than advertised on the packaging. Some overage is to be expected with all supplements, but the margins for many gummy supplements are gargantuan. ‘Gummy vitamins were the most likely form to contain much more of an ingredient than listed,’ ConsumerLab wrote in its 2023 review of multivitamins and multiminerals. Of the four gummy supplements reviewed, three contained nearly twice as much of the relevant substance as they were supposed to, and the fourth contained only around three-quarters as much.” (The Atlantic)

Caffeine’s dirty little secret

How can you gauge the potential impact of a caffeinated drink? Even if a vendor lists the caffeine content–and many do not–it’s impossible to know how a specific volume of caffeine will affect you. Genetics come into play as do “historical patterns of use.” There is no hard and fast rule so, when faced with myriad energy drinks and the multitude of coffee formats available today, it is easy to overdo it. 

“The reason we aren’t good at thinking about caffeine is that historically, we’ve never really had to think that hard about it. Sure, one too many espressos might have occasionally put someone over the edge, but caffeine was consumed and sold in amounts that didn’t require as much thought or caution. ‘A generation ago, you didn’t have all these energy drinks, so people didn’t grow up learning about safe caffeine consumption the way they may have done for alcohol…’” (The Atlantic)

How rice hidden by a woman fleeing slavery in the 1700s could help her descendants

I’ve posted stories like this before, of ancient grains salvaged by forward-thinking individuals and found to have the resilience needed for today’s climate extremes. Surinamese rice is one of them and has quite an interesting history, as outlined in this article. 

“‘Maroon rice faces a significant threat,’ says Beri Bonglim, a scientist at the Crop Trust. ‘We saw this as an opportunity to repatriate this valuable material back to the Maroon communities and actively engage community members to regenerate them, fostering awareness about the significance of these genetic resources and the need for their conservation…So we did not only want to safeguard Maroon rice but also empower local communities to play a pivotal role in conserving it.’” (The Guardian)

Everything you need to know about storing chocolate for baking and beyond

Should chocolate be stored in the fridge? What is that white stuff that sometimes appears on its surface? All your chocolate storage questions are answered here. 

“Unless you’re a chocolatier or baker working with chocolate on a large scale, it’s unlikely that you have an entire dedicated room for it. But even if you only keep a few bags or bars of chocolate in your pantry, you probably want to keep them tasting their best. And here’s some good news: If you take care to store it under the right conditions, chocolate can last for years.” (Epicurious)

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