By Jessica Jensen, K-State Research and Extension news service

Manhattan, KS— Apple pie and Kool-Aid sounds like a party snack, but at the Kansas FFA state convention recently, it was part of a food science workshop.


Kansas FFA students had the opportunity to explore the relationship between taste, aroma and flavor. Students sampled three food products and discussed their sensory characteristics.


First up: apple pie. Graduate research assistant Janae Brown said that this pie was considered a “depression pie” because of the non-traditional ingredients used. Students were shocked to hear that Ritz crackers and cream of tartar were used instead of apples.


“I could tell it wasn’t quite right, but it still tasted a lot like apple, which was really cool,” said Grace Young, who is with the Osawatomie FFA Chapter.


Beyond trying to decide what was in the apple pie, students tasted two flavors of Kool-Aid, then listed off what flavors they believed the Kool-Aid to be. Once all students had guessed, Brown explained that the red Kool-Aid was grape flavored, and the blue was watermelon flavored. Brown said she used different colors to throw off their brains because the brain plays a large part in perception.


“It was difficult to figure out that the color wasn’t representing the flavor and looking past the color was a little difficult,” said Julia Studer, member of the Frankfort FFA Chapter.


Brown told the students that when you hear what the flavor should be, your brain will recognize that as the flavor. One student had just that reaction: “For the red, it took a while to recognize the flavor, but for the blue when people started to say watermelon it clicked,” said Chellby Cosby, who is with the Geary FFA Chapter.


The final test that students completed was an aroma test. There were 20 aromas around the classroom that students could smell. Several students had more difficulty with this test.


“It was really hard to pinpoint what the smell was without being able to see it,” Young said.


Throughout the three tests, Brown discussed how flavor chemists use the same tests they just completed to decide the taste and aroma of different products. She also discussed how they use the sense of sight to help decide theses profiles.


Young said: “I enjoyed learning about how aroma is actually a big part of tasting and identifying what you are eating rather than just your taste.”


The Kansas FFA convention was held June 1-3 on the Kansas State University campus in Manhattan.