News - May 28, 2011

VHL students say cheese to being third in tasting contest

Students of Van Hall Larenstein came in third in the European Dairy Sensorial Contest, an international dairy product tasting contest.

Bread-and-butter issues with cheese and milk
Walking into the academic canteen of VHL on 20 May, you would have seen tens of students focussed on tasting cheese, butter and milk. Every bite or gulp was followed by chewing on a piece of apple or biscuit to neutralize the taste. It was so quiet that you could even hear a piece of cheese being picked up.
This university of applied sciences hosted the contest for the first time this year. It was organized by Europel, the European federation for dairy products. A total of 57 students of dairy and food technology from France, Spain, Finland, Romania and the Netherlands took part. They graded milk, butter and three types of cheese (fresh goat cheese, Gouda cheese and Maasdammer cheese) on thirty attributes, such as creaminess, saltiness and sweetness. They had to judge five variations of each product.
A day before the competition, five professional taste panellists had tasted the products. Those who came closest to the professionals would win the contest.
To make it more challenging for the students, a lot of experimenting had been done with the milk. Theo Bijlsma, lecturer of dairy processing in AOC Friesland: 'One sample, for example, had been sterilized for a long time, and as a result, it tasted as if it had been boiled.' One of the students picked that out: 'That milk I've just tasted was so rancid that it seemed to have been in the oven for a very long time.'
The French teams in particular were highly motivated. 'There is a lot of competition among different cities in France', says Jappie de Jong, chairman of the contest organizing team and a lecturer in meat and dairy technology. 'Months beforehand, they phoned me to ask which products would be on the programme so that the students could practise tasting.' The lecturer of Barry Sprenkeling from Alkmaar also introduced challenges for her students when they were practising for the contest. She added copper taste to cheese and placed a piece of cheese in a lump of silage.
The French students' strategy eventually turned out to be extremely successful; the student Marylene Gervais from Aurillac was the overall winner and the Aurillac team came out tops in the entire contest. The team from the Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences came in third.