When you put one end of the tube in your mouth and gently breathe in, a fine chocolate powder flies through the air. The organic chocolate powder exits through holes in the end of the cylinder and sprinkles on the surfaces of your mouth and tongue. That’s the basic idea behind Le Whif “breathable” chocolate, the patented invention of Harvard University professor David Edwards and his team. After being launched from Edwards’ Paris store “LaboShop,” Le Whif is just now being fully released in the USA. I’ve been following this story for a while, intrigued by a product that is the intersection of art and science, but only decided to give it a try after the newest version was launched earlier this year. Unlike the original version, the new Le Whif uses organic, fairly traded chocolate and all biodegradable materials.
In a press release Edwards explains: “Le Whif uses particle engineering to form chocolate in particle sizes that are small enough to become airborne though too large to enter the lungs.” So, technically, you are not breathing chocolate, but inhaling it into your mouth.
Le Whif Taste Test
OK, we’re going to shorten the usual tasting format a bit since there will be no aroma or “snap” with this chocolate and Genevieve is also going to help me out with the whiffing to provide another perspective. Le Whif comes in three flavors, Pure Chocolate, Raspberry Chocolate and Mint Chocolate. We tasted the Pure Chocolate and Raspberry Chocolate versions.
WHAT: Le Whif, Raspberry Chocolate. 0.3g. Ingredients: organic cane sugar, organic cocoa solids, organic vanilla. Natural flavors. AND Le Whif, Pure Chocolate. 0.3g. Ingredients: organic cane sugar, organic cocoa solids, organic vanilla. Where to buy Le Whif Breathable Chocolate and Coffee.
WHEN: September 16, 2010 – October 16, 2010.
IMPRESSIONS: Raspberry: The raspberry and chocolate flavors are about equally balanced. Like raspberry jam on a chocolate bar, but without the texture or seeds. The flavor is authentic with no hint of anything artificial (there are no artificial flavors after all). Pure Chocolate: Mostly nut and apple notes. Reminiscent of Saturday morning hot cocoa. Just the right amount of sweetness.
FINISH: When the powder is gone, the flavor disappears soon after that, but they claim you get about eight whiffs per Whif, so go ahead and take another. We easily got more than ten whiffs out of ours. Of course, it takes a little practice to master the art of “whiffing” – just how hard to draw in and for how long, but it’s not hard. I found that a Whif of about 1-2 seconds felt about right. For me, the finish lasted around a minute and was similar in flavor to the middle taste. I was cleansing between Whifs with green tea and could have been more patient before whiffing again. You might experience a longer finish than I did.
TEXTURE: You will feel a very light powder land in your mouth and then you will instinctively sort of chew it around to release the flavor.
Do I think this will replace our beloved artisan bars? Of course not! Instead, I think it could complement our regular bar, truffle and drinking chocolate habits serving to expand our total experience of chocolate. How it fits into that total experience is yet to be seen, but I can imagine a few scenarios, some obvious and some mildly outlandish.
Whiffing Scenes from the Future
Unique Party Favor Turned Icebreaker– Imagine setting out Whifs around the table at a dinner party, but not immediately explaining what they are. Think about the conversations that would ensue and the potential as an ice-breaker…the kind that get’s people talking.
Reduced-Guilt Chocolate Experience – I don’t feel particularly guilty when I eat chocolate. In fact, I feel great, but some people might use Le Whif as a way to avoid overconsumption. Since each puff only contains about 40mg of chocolate, it amounts to less than one calorie. But, this small amount of chocolate is well-spent since it ends up entirely in your mouth and tongue where you can fully enjoy its taste. On the other hand, when you eat a square of chocolate, much of it by-passes your tongue and travels right to your stomach.
If you feel you are prone to overconsumption, this might be a way to get some satisfaction between meals or snacks whether they be chocolate or not. Sure, there’s no substitute for mouth-feel, but you’re still going to eat chocolate, just not all day long. After all, there is overwhelming evidence that high quality chocolate is good for you. If you’re looking at Le Whif as a calorie-free replacement for chocolate, you’re missing out on a potentially healthy indulgence (when eaten in moderation).
Le Whif might be used as a convenient distraction to avoid overconsumption of any food (not just chocolate), but I don’t think it’s really a direct substitute for chocolate nor is it the only way to enjoy the product. If you are going to use it to avoid other foods, then make sure you are first mindful of your feelings about the foods your are avoiding and most of all be mentally present to enjoy the Whifs. For more on mindful eating, see this earlier post.
Traveler’s Chocolate – When I travel with chocolate, at least for long distance trips, I bring a tiny homemade cooler in my checked bag packed with a few bars of the good stuff along with an ice pack. Most people won’t go through this kind of trouble, nor do they want to buy the junk you find in an airport shop or worry that their premium chocolate bars will melt in transit. Besides, try to buy a decent chocolate bar in Shanghai. I have and it’s not easy. So, I can see throwing a few of these incredibly portable little Whifs into your carry-on or purse and pulling them out when you want a little taste of home.
The After Dinner Whif – You’re at a bar or restaurant and have just finished your meal. The chocolate torte would sure go nicely with your desert wine, but you just can’t see spending another 500 calories after an already indulgent meal. Should you discreetly snap off a couple of squares of the dark chocolate bar that’s sitting in your purse and start nibbling with your friend? Faux pas! Instead, you pull out a couple of Le Whifs and you and your friend take a few whiffs along with your after-dinner drinks. Snap the Whifs closed. Pull it out again for a few puffs with your coffee. I know – there’s nothing discrete about puffing chocolate, but remember, this is the future and people will understand.
The One-of-a-Kind Stocking Stuffer – They’re nice size for a stocking and completely unexpected.
The Whiffing Den – Don’t take this one too seriously, OK? I can remember a few years back hookahs were popular and showed up in too-cool bars and urban parties. You sit around on the floor and take an occasional puff of (sometimes flavored) tobacco smoke cooled by a communal water pipe. You lounge around, talk, drink, eat, puff and relax. It might not be the most healthy past time, but not something you would do daily anyway.
Can you imagine doing this with Whifs? I’m not sure, but perhaps it would be more realistic to think about social Whiffing. A few friends, some Whifs, drinks, music and pillows thrown about the floor.
OK, I think that last one is a sign that I’m out of ideas for now, so please share yours.
What I like about it:
- It gives you options – there are times when you’ll take the chocolate torte and there and times when a cup of coffee and a Le Whif would fit just right.
- It uses organic chocolate and a biodegradable design
- When it comes to protecting the planet, under-consumption of anything is best and Le Whif appears to be the epitome of under-consumption.
What could be improved:
- I’m dreaming of a fine powder made from single-origin Criollo.
Like most innovations, the ultimate use for Le Whif will not be decided entirely by the inventor but partly, if not mostly, by its users. So what is Le Whif best used for? That’s up to you. Happy Whiffing.
 Photo of three Le Whifs courtesy of LaboGroup. Credit: Sublim Design. Photo of Le Whif single courtesy of LaboGroup; credit: Phase One Photography.
 I paid for all the materials used in this review myself.