Can you taste that taste?

By Candace Nelson - 8:00 AM

The other day, Chris and I were talking about the different tastes your mouth experiences. So, I wanted to check out exactly how we do taste food. Flavor perception comes through the mouth and nose. We have about 100,000 tastebuds located on our tongue, roof of our mouth, sides of our mouth, and throat. And, we can taste flavors all over our mouths - there aren't designated areas where we taste certain flavors, despite that lovely diagram we've all seen. These tastes include sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami. We also uses things like smell, texture, temperature, etc.

But those five are:

1. Sweet - the most pleasurable sensation. It is made up of sugars. Examples: Bananas, honey, vanilla

2. Salty - It is made up of sodium. Flavors in a dish are heightened with the addition of salt, and the opposite of salt leads to diminished flavors. Sugar helps round out flavors and take off the edge of acidic, salty or bitter foods. Examples: Bacon, ham, oysters

3. Bitter - Alkaloid. the most sensitive of the tastes. It's described as being "unpleasant, sharp, or disagreeable." Bitterness helps balance out sweetness. Examples: Coffee, dark chocolate, marmalade, beer, olives

4. Sour - It detects acidity. Can brighten and clarify flavors. Acids help balance out foods that are very rich, heavy or fatty. Examples: Lemons, grapefruit

5. Umami (Japanese word for "meaty" or "savory") - the most recent discovery. Until the 21st century, it was mostly thought only four tastes existed. Examples: Parmesan cheese, soy sauce, mushrooms

I lied, there's another one:

6. Piquance - Sometimes considered a sixth taste. In many Asian countries, it is considered a basic taste. It deals with hotness, pungence, spiciness, etc. Examples: Chili, pepper, ginger

Other Sensations:

  • Mouthfeel - affected by how long the flavor remains on our tongue. So, jellies or oily foods dissolve slowly and give a more prolonged flavor. Comfort foods often fall in this category.
  • Astringency (Dry) - Makes the mouth feel dry and rough, like a strong tea or unripe banana.
  • Temperature - Coldness suppresses sweetness. Warm foods taste sweeter and stronger.
  • Coolness - Fresh or minty flavors like in spearmint, menthol, etc.
  • Fattiness
  • Heartiness
  • Spiciness
Presence of Umami

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