Meet John Harrison; official ice cream taste tester of Nestle owned Dreyers ice cream products and 64-year-old ice cream extraordinaire whose ancestral ice cream roots
date back to the 1800s. This not so ordinary ice cream taste tester is Nestle’s, Dryers’, Edy’s and Haagen-Dazs’ most precious employee, as no flavor is shelved until assessed by his 10,000 finally tuned taste buds — Taste buds that are insured for 1 million dollars.
Over the past 42 years of ice cream tasting, Harrison has approved more than 200 million gallons of ice cream and rejected half a million. Harrison takes his taste testing very seriously and says that it’s a tough job, despite common thought. In fact, there’s a lot more that goes into ice cream taste testing than one may think, and Harrison follows strict taste testing protocol. Want to learn how to start taste testing your own ice cream? Make sure you follow Harrison’s taste tester steps to get the most out of each blend.
Visual Test – Before Harrison even thinks about tasting ice cream, he observes visual appeal. He looks for consistency, as well as balance. If a blend has chunks of cookie or pieces of pecan, he looks to see if they are evenly distributed.
Light to Dark – Similar to wine tasting, it is important that you taste the lightest blends of ice cream first. Harrison tastes light blends first and works his way to dark flavors like coffee and double chocolate fudge.
Appropriate Temperature – Ice cream is commonly served at negative five degrees. If Harrison were to taste every sample at such a frigid temperature, his taste buds would go numb! In order to keep his taste buds from freezing, Harrison waits until the ice cream is roughly 12 degrees before tasting.
The Golden Spoon – Eating ice cream with a plastic or wood spoon can leave an after taste in your mouth and ruin the flavor of the ice cream. Because of this, Harrison uses a golden spoon for his daily 60-flavor tasting.
Three S’s – Could you imagine how full Harrison would get after eating 60 samples of ice cream a day? In order to complete daily tasting, Harrison follows the three S’s: Swirl, smack, and spit. After swirling and smacking for optimal flavor release, Harrison spits out the ice cream and prepares for the next flavor.
Harboring 10,000 taste buds, insured at $100 a piece, can be difficult to maintain. When Harrison’s off the clock, he has to be careful about what touches his palette. To maintain his million dollar taste buds, Harrison avoids caffeine, spicy foods, onions, garlic, alcohol, and smoking. Avoidance of the previous would be difficult for most of us; for Harrison, it’s a small price to pay for the job he loves.