Category Archives: Le Whif

Coffee to Go: Le Whif Breathable Coffee

Le Whif Coffee

Getting ready for some serious jet lag - Le Whif Coffee and a ticket to Shanghai

If there’s anything worse than fourteen and a half hours from Chicago to Shanghai in coach class, it’s sitting in a window seat with a head cold.  It’s been a long time since I’ve sat at the window – probably something to do with my recent demotion from “Platinum” Status on American Airlines or just booking too late.  OK, I’m going to stop whining now since traveling is what I need to do to feed my family.  Now that I’ve been on the ground for a couple of days, my cold is almost gone, but the jet lag lingers – it’s a good time to try the Le Whif Coffee that I tossed in my bag back home.

Since reviewing Le Whif Chocolate last year, I’ve been looking for a good reason to try the coffee version.  I’m still trying to see beyond the fun novelty factor to a practical use for these little things.  There’s something to be said about having a little bit of breathable coffee you can pack in you bag or pocket and pull out anywhere.  For those of you that missed the first article on Le Whif, the concept is simple – you inhale through a smallish tube that’s filled with food particles.  The tiny particles land on your tongue and the surfaces of your mouth so that you get an instant taste of chocolate or coffee.  It occurred to me that Le Whif Coffee might be a fun way to get a little kick of caffeine to fight off the usual symptoms of jet lag and general fatigue that I’ve grown to love on these trips.

One of many Starbucks in Shanghai serves a busy lunchtime crowd

One of many Starbucks in Shanghai serves a busy lunchtime crowd

Like most other major cities in the world, Shanghai has more than its share of Starbucks.  On top of that, the breakfast buffet in my hotel has a kickass computerized espresso machine which does a better than decent job whipping up a macchiato from infamous Chinese milk and just-ground coffee beans.  So with no plans to venture outside the city, why would I need another way to get my caffeine kick?  First of all, the picture at the office is a bit different.

On the first morning at the office, a charming older woman whose job duties consist of the completely natural combination of cleaning the place and making coffee, peeks her smiling face into my meeting room, tips her head back while making a drinking gesture and asks, “coffee?” As she runs away, I yell “tea.”  She comes back with a cup of instant coffee with Cremora. Day two arrives and I’m armed with a new word in my limited Chinese vocabulary.  She pops her daily question, which I’m starting to realize is really a statement, and I reply with an equally friendly smile and raised eyebrows: “cha?”  She quickly returns with instant coffee loaded with Cremora.  I thank her and drink up.  So much for bridging the cultural gap.

By mid afternoon, a thick fog comes over my brain and body and there’s no way

Le Whif Coffee and Chocolate

Le Whif Coffee surrounded by the chocolate flavors - mint, raspberry and pure chocolate

I’m reaching for more Cremora.  Now’s a time to pull out the Whifs and start whiffing.  The first couple of draws didn’t produce nearly as much flavor as the chocolate versions, so I gave the Whif a few strong shakes and things began to flow (if you do this, make sure to snap it closed before shaking).[1]  The coffee flavor was still lighter than expected and followed by a distinct sweetness.  I’m quite sensitive to caffeine and I have to say that the buzz from these things was pretty mild.  Maybe it was the depth of my jet lag or that fact that, according to the inventor, there’s only about as much caffeine as a very light espresso [2]. Still this is comforting since you don’t want to get completely slammed with caffeine after only a few whiffs – no, this was a nice controlled lift.

I can see these Whifs having a place on trips like this.  There are plenty of times when I can’t get to a convenience shop or vending machine never mind a real café and Le Whif Coffee would provide some instant relief from the fog.  Stuck on the train, in a boring conference or feel compelled to get up at 4 am and start working, like I did? Le Whif is ready to go.  The rest of the time, there’s always Nescafe with Cremora.

Notes:

[1] Definitely follow the instructions that come in box:  you should always hold the Whif horizontally (parallel to the floor) when opening.

[2] As far as I can tell there is  about 100mg of caffeine in a “normal” shot of espresso. This would be about 4-5 times that of a Whif, in my estimation.

[3] I paid for all materials used in the post myself.

[4] Photo of four Whifs is courtesy of LaboGroup / Breathable Foods.

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Le Whif: Is the Future of Chocolate Blowing in the Wind?

Le Whif Raspberry, Chocolate and Mint

Le Whif Raspberry, Chocolate and Mint

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.

Let’s first give it a taste test and then I’ll suggest how we might use Le Whif to supplement our fine chocolate experiences.  But wait, after reviewing so many artisan chocolate bars, truffles, and drinks, how can I review chocolate that is not actually eaten, at least not in the traditional sense?  It’s simple. My chocolate adventure is about exploring chocolate in all its forms and this is the one truly unique form of chocolate to come around in a while.  I can’t pass up the opportunity to take an objective look at an innovation in the food world.

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

Le Whif Single in Package

Le Whif Singles and individually wrapped, so they could work as a party favor.

 

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.

LAST BITE

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.

Notes:

[1] Photo of three Le Whifs courtesy of LaboGroup.  Credit: Sublim Design.  Photo of Le Whif single courtesy of LaboGroup; credit: Phase One Photography.

[2] I paid for all the materials used in this review myself.

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