Last week I was fortunate to attend the launch of the new Bompas and Parr event; The Artisanal Gum Factory.
In the 'factory', based in Whiteley's Shopping Centre, you are invited to create your own gum; picking from 400 flavour combinations and mixing, rolling and cutting the gum yourself.
If you are (like me) indecisive, choosing from over 200 flavours and 40,000 gum combinations can be a dizzying prospect. That said- some flavours are more appealing than others. To make the selection process easier, glass jars of scent cover pillar like tables in a small and dark room.
Each jar is labelled with the scent it contains- It's like a sensory Russian Roulette.
Lilac is soft and lovely, the fruits are sweet and sickly, the herbs delicate. My favourites are the 'burnt' flavours- burnt orange and burnt sugar.
Others are less lovely. Sea Urchin, for example, is 'like death in a jar'. Shrimp is equally stomach turning. (As a general rule, I would avoid any sea-based flavoured gum.)
Scents that catch the eye of the public a little more than the generic strawberry and cherry include lobster, black truffle, chilli or ale yeast.
Once you have made your selection, you take it to the next door lab, where you are guided through making your own gum, mixing the melted down latex-y gum mix with the scent, stirring vigorously with icing sugar and food dye and kneading like dough till you have stretchy gum. Roll this out, cut it up and store away in your little Bompas and Parr box.
It's true, things are more exciting when they let you do it yourself.
I left my flavour selection down to the professional expertise of Chef Andrew. Returning from the store room of flavour, I was presented with pine- and though it genuinely did taste of pine, it was surprisingly appetising. Who knew having a mouth like a new car would taste so appealing. It's a more original oral freshener than Spearmint!
Lou is now the proud owner of the Flavour Thesaurus- It couldn't have come at a better time really! Maybe I should have taken it with me, and tried some of these combinations...
Coffee and Cigarettes: I read about this flavour prior to attending the factory and was keen to try it, despite being a non smoker, and therefore dubious of whether I would actually like it. But as my sister says, you should try everything twice.
As it was, it was actually an enjoyable chew. Apparently dealing twice the caffeine fix of a traditional cup of coffee, it had more coffee flavour to it than cigarette- though it resembled one of those rich filter coffees that are so strong they actually have that slightly ashy morning-after-a-night-in-a-pool-house taste. It was rich and enjoyable.
Chilli and coconut: I'm a sucker for anything with chilli in it. The classic chilli and chocolate may be a bit obvious, but how about coconut with chilli? According to Niki Segent, coconut 'soothes the heat of chilli, whose active component capsaicin is soluble in fat, but not water.' Beats coconut and rum in my book...
Strawberry and Black Pepper: You know, like strawberries and black pepper. Sweet, with a little kick.
Coffee and Cardamom: I've long been a fan of this Turkish inspired coffee combination. I tried the cardamom and it was pretty similar to the pine- Combined with coffee, and it would be like sitting in a blue tiled Brick Lane Turkish coffee shop. My happy place in my mouth.
Beer and Curry: Don't you be turning your noses up, as far as I'm concerned, that's pretty unappealing anyway... But you know, as my sister says...
Greek Yoghurt and Honey: Not especially creative, but I think I would enjoy it.
Rose and Cucumber: One for summer- or for the girls!
What combinations would you try? I'd love to know! Go forth and masticate...