In Calabria, the National Institute of Bread Tasters

A sort of bread “sommelier” for the promotion of one of the most important foods. 

Inap, the National Institute of Bread Tasters, is one of those scarcely known yet remarkably original initiatives Calabria is full of.

It is a rather unique non-profit association, whose members have been working to divulgate the culture of bread – possibly the most important of foods – since 2009.

Despite its thousands years of history, the status of this staple food has been damaged by the industry: its consecration to the principles of easy and standardized production has resulted in the impoverishment of the baking process, depriving bread of some of its basic qualities.

The agronomist Walter Cricrì, a certified panel leader as well as an expert taster and sensory analyst, is the director and founder of this association, whose administration is quartered in Altomonte (province of Cosenza), whereas its operational base is in Palmi (province of Reggio Calabria).

It was right during the Bread Festival in the mediaeval town of Altomonte (the so-called City of Bread) that Walter Cricrì and Vincenzo Barbieri (the festival promoter, as well as a wine and food expert and head of the local tourism council)  decided to join forces and design a course in bread sensory analysis.

A lot has been done since then: a technical and scientific committee was set up within the association run by Barbieri. Its members are experts on the production chain and sensory analysis of a wide range of different foods who, aided by professionals bakers, have been conducting in-depth research on the so-called Baking Arts.

Their work has been going on for several years now, arousing national interest in both food experts and consumers, who are finally rediscovering the culture of high-quality bread. As a result, a Method of bread sensory analysis has been worked out, providing producers and bakers with a precious tool to assess their products: a kind of sensory ID of bread.

Since 2009, the association was a frequent participant in the social and cultural scene, actively promoting and organizing festivals, local fairs, competitions and educational activities for schools and universities.

Boasting some of the most notable businesses and associations from the Italian food industry as its collaborators, Inap has become a national landmark when it comes to food education. It offers two different courses: one is open to general consumers and bread-enthusiasts, the other is for true Bread Tasters, who will receive an official certification upon completion of the programme.

“There is no objective criterion to determine the quality of a food or product – says Walter Cricrì – For this reason, our main objective is to teach consumers to recognize certain qualities, such as fragrances and tastes, enabling them to choose the kind of bread that is best suited for them. There are indexes of quality though, allowing us to understand whether a loaf of home-mad bread is or is not good, namely, if it was properly made and baked. Such indexes include: the main ingredients (flour, for example), the leavening process and the baking”

In other words, rediscovering the traditional tastes and fragrances of bread and revisiting those places where baking still is an art means developing our personal taste and protecting our health. Plus, it means saving this wonderful product of human activity from the bleakness of industrial standardization.

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