‘Plant cell culture is now emerging from a very cold winter …’ Cell-cultured chocolate startup California Cultured turns attention to coffee

Put another way, says Perlstein, coffee and cocoa are pretty complicated, and you can’t just program a yeast cell to produce them in a fermentation tank.

“They contain hundreds, even thousands of flavors and bioactive molecules,” Observes Perlstein, who is growing material he claims approximates cocoa nibs using plant cell culture and has recently teamed up with Finnish technical research center VTT to work on culturing cells from coffee plants.

But how close are California Cultured’sCocoa ‘nibs’ or coffee grounds to the real thing?

“We know we’re currently replicating thousands of flavors,” Claimed Perlstein. “And that’s the real beauty of plant cell culture. You can have more complexity, more of the nuance, which is missing in a lot of single note flavors [he cited the difference between vanillin – a compound in vanilla pods which can be produced via microbial fermentation – and vanilla extract, which has complex smoky, spicy, botanical, sulfury, sweet and creamy notes as well as that core vanilla flavor you get from vanillin].

“And to me, that’s the magic of all the molecules working together, plus you get the benefits of the bioactive molecules for human health and wellbeing,” Added Perlstein, Who has worked with plant cells, animal cells and microbial cells during his career.

Plant cell culture: ‘Emerging from a very cold winter…’

So how established is plant cell culture? “A lot of the work on plant cell culture happened in the early part of this century,” Said Perlstein, who was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA before moving into a new 12,000sqft facility and pilot plant in West Sacramento.


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