The time is 1994, the place is Montreal. Daniel Bitton is 19 years old and loves to wear this jacket made by his tailor grandfather. “He sewed this coat in 1947 and it’s a very cool coat,” Bitton, now 40, told BuzzFeed Canada.
This Christmas he was at his parents’ house and he went looking for that old coat.
“I thought my mom threw it out and I was very angry,” he said. “Somehow I found it in my parent’s closet. There was my sweet 1947 coat, which I pull out. And what’s in the pocket? A 1992 Aero Orange bar, which was my favourite bar at the time.”
Bitton took the chocolate bar out and discovered two hard pieces inside. “I was like, ‘What is this?’ And then it hit me: holy fuck this is the actual chocolate.”
“It shriveled,” he said, “it’s hard like a stone. The chocolate disappeared or was absorbed into the orange centre.”
That was his amateur scientific theory, at least.
“Call Neil deGrasse Tyson to get the explanation,” Bitton suggested to BuzzFeed Canada. (Disclosure: Bitton is a friend, and he is also the creator of the disgustingly real Scrote’N’Tote backpack.)
DeGrasse Tyson may know physics, but this required different expertise. We turned to Dr. Dérick Rousseau, a food scientist who runs the Rousseau Labs at Ryerson University. “You’ve got some funky looking chocolate,” is the first thing he said after seeing it.
Let’s pause for a moment during our scientific investigation and remember what the inside of an Aero Orange usually looks like. Burn this into your memory.
And here’s what the inside of the 1994 bar looks like now. Rousseau works with chocolate every day and said he’s never seen anything like it.
First, let’s get the big question out of the way: could you eat it and not die? “You could totally eat it,” Rousseau said. “I will add a word of caution that I’ve not physically seen the chocolate, but I have eaten old chocolate and I’m still here today.”
Rousseau said it would taste a bit “rancid” and you’d “feel the large crystals on your tongue.”
Sounds delicious. He also said there’s no reason to worry about mould or bacteria on the old-ass chocolate.
“In very humid environments (e.g. in the tropics), it is perhaps possible for mould to grow on opened chocolate, but this would be very rare,” Rousseau said.
Is Bitton planning to give it a taste?
“I have no plans for consuming it,” he said. “Maybe a museum donation, or for research.”
And now here’s the science of why those pieces of chocolate look so crazy. Rousseau says the chocolate bar is suffering from an extreme case of “bloom.”
Two key ingredients in the chocolate shell are cocoa butter and sugar. “Both exist as crystals, like the sugar that you dissolve in coffee,” Rousseau said.
Over time, these crystals grow and begin to lose the glossy look and colour of milk chocolate.
“So what you have with this is an extreme case of fat/sugar bloom, where the cocoa butter crystals have grown significantly,” he said. “Think how after a snowfall the initial show can be nice and fluffy. Then it hardens with time because the crystals are sticking together.”
He said the inside of the bar is the result of a combination of bloom and the fluctuation in temperature over time.
“My opinion is that the chocolate has been subjected to temperature fluctuations,” he said. “It slightly melted and cooled so that the chocolate on the inside has lost all of its bubbles. All of the fat inside has melted and then resolidified.”
And as with the outer layer, the crystals have expanded due to bloom.
Or, to put it another way: “The inside looks totally whacked out.”