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Lab for Chocolate Science Brings Science to the Kitchen

chocolates

February 06, 2017

Walking through Lobby 10 after a final exam, students may find some smiling people offering free hot chocolate. This lifesaving beverage—as well as a number of other sweet treats—are offered to MIT students thanks to the MIT Lab for Chocolate Science. Established by Ariel Segall ‘02, the lab has provided the MIT community with chocolate since 2003, and imparted skills to help members make their own treats. “We’re just a bunch of chocolate enthusiasts who really like to eat and give away chocolate,” said Rachel Osmundsen ‘17, president.

The club started when a combination of ridiculously cheap bulk chocolate, a lot of creativity, and a little bit of free time resulted in a series of truffle-making parties. Eventually, those events spawned the Lab for Chocolate Science (the name a play on the Institute’s Lab for Computer Science). Over time, LCS began to offer classes in truffle making over Independent Activities Period (IAP), giving students the opportunity to learn the intricate procedures and experiment with their own flavor combinations, all for an entry fee of only $5 to cover the cost of materials.

But one of LCS’s most beloved events is finals hot chocolate, when members set up a table in Lobby 10 during finals week with only one goal: to help students power through exams fueled by free chocolate. “I sort of see finals hot chocolate as the core of what this club does,” said Osmundsen. “It’s free, it makes people happy, we’re trying to help out the student body, and you can really see that in the interactions you have. . .it’s a very gratifying experience.”

Instead of hosting regular meetings, the club convenes by issuing calls to a sizable mailing list seeking volunteers to help at events whenever needed—a short email can round up any number of members ready to make chocolate bars, give out hot chocolate, or teach truffles classes. Of course, LCS’s endeavors go beyond classes and hot chocolate. The club sells chocolates every Valentine’s Day, and hosts a chocolate breakfast each year during Family Weekend—but they’re always open to new and innovative event ideas. “It’s fun because it’s always changing. We have a few set events, but we like to experiment and do new things as people propose them to us.

LCS’s unique projects includes making more than two hundred chocolate bars for the Katharine Dexter McCormick Society. And the club isn’t limited to just the MIT community: they’ve also held truffle-making classes for local Girl Scout troops and sold chocolate at the Cambridge Winter Farmers Market. “It can be a fair amount of work when we have events around, but it’s fun to do, and people really appreciate the things that we do. . .so that’s really great to experience.”

The benefits of LCS run both ways: students enjoy receiving finals hot chocolate and truffles throughout the year, and for group members, the practice of giving and teaching is rewarding in itself. “People really love chocolate. They like that we can tell them a little more about it and show them how to do different things,” said Osmundsen. “It’s fun to be able to share that knowledge and to see how much people enjoy what we have to teach them.”

Story by Isabella Dionne, video by Stephanie Tran.

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