BLOG // // 5.12.2018

How Do Different Senses Affect the Way We Taste?

Well I think we all know that our perception of flavour and taste are different form each other: what is sour for one not necessarily will be sour for other. And also that tasting actually is a really unique combination of all our senses - smell, hearing, sight, and of course the taste. In this blog I give examples how different senses actually effect the way we taste.

So lets start from the most obvious - tongue!  Yes it is the main receptor and sense for the flavour, well at least I thought so.  But: surprise, surprise, it is not! We only feel the taste with the tongue, yep just (sour, sweet, bitter, and umami). Little spoiler alert, spicy is not taste it is feeling and it works very similar to how mint works.  But I will not dig into this too much, you can read more about that maybe later :)

five tastes
Five basic tastes: sweet, sourness, salty, bitter & umami

Looks like all my life was a lie :D So lets clear this out!

To do that let's talk first about  SMELL. Well I knew that it effects our ability to taste which explains the fact that when your nose is blocked your food becomes tasteless. But I didn’t knew that it is actually way more important than “just a little bit”.  I'll give you an example: take the Skittles candy, press your nose with the fingers when you take it and chew it. What do you feel? Mostly sweet, soft, maybe bit sour, or does it have bitterness in it? Now while you are still chewing, open your nose. WOW yeah? All the flavours - grapes, apples, oranges, berries - kicked in right? That how much we feel through the smell and just how little with our mouth. ? 

But hey if you got interested, let’s dig even deeper! You will be surprised even more!! That I promise ?

So next one, is our EYES, and our sight, is the second sense that effects our taste. Well if you are not convinced I actually, understand you, just because I was sceptical on that too until I saw a visual trick where some people put the same white wine in two glasses and added some red dye to the wine. What is the difference you would ask? BIG!! Even if the person serving the glasses wouldn’t say anything about what in it, just asking how it tastes like, seriously… people would start describing two cups as it would be different drinks, suddenly white wine with red dye start to taste as it is red: sweeter, rounder. It is crazy how much your vision affects the taste!

Same way it works with cups, cans, bottles, etc. and apparently it has something to do with our genes. Like from ancient times how would people know when berries or fruits are ripe? From the colour. So take the lemon for example, it is yellow and it is sour, so if you take your coffee from yellow cup it should feel more sour then from the white and from the red cup it would be sweeter, just because most (not all) of the fruits that are red are sweet. You can try it yourself, but also if you make it on your own, you might not feel the difference that much, but if other person makes - that's a different ballgame. I challenge you to try it with your friends, make same coffee and don’t  show them - just pour the same coffee into two yellow and red cups, and ask what they taste ?

red orange
Orange juice jello tastes totally different when it is red instead of orange

Have you ever thought why “cola” is red, “sprite” green/yellow and “fanta” is orange? Yup, to make your sensations even stronger. In the past (I think about 8 years ago) there was a social advertisement about polar bears, and Coca Cola made cans white, during that period  they got some negative reviews about the flavour, that it changed, and it is not the same anymore, although the recipe was actually the same and not changed. Sounds crazy? Yah! I know, but that’s how much your eyes effect the flavour. ? 

Well, if you not bored yet the last example is my most favourite ? 

Its our EARS! I know, sounds sci-fi but its true ? Sound effects our flavour as much as eyes. And it works like this…There is two different things that changes your perception of flavour: high pitch and low pitch sounds. For example if you take two pieces of the same chocolate (simple dark one is good enough) and  you will play high pitch sounds and while listening you will slowly eat a piece of chocolate, and will think how it feels or how it tastes. Most likely, it will taste sweeter, (like MILK CHOCOLATE). And after that you will play LOW PITCH sounds and will take another piece of chocolate from the same chocolate bar and do the same thing. OH BOY it gets crazy here. Most likely you will feel it more bitter, (like DARK CHOCOLATE). And no matter how hard you will try to deny it, you will struggle to have the same sensation both times. The funniest thing in first place is how our senses trick our brain to feel the difference when there is NO difference! COOL right? That actually makes sense now why a lot of restaurants and cafeterias don’t allow their staff to play their own music and strictly plays only  certain soundtracks.

chocolate and coffee
The taste of chocolate (& coffee) can change depending on what music you listen

Oh and one last thing: here is the link to video that I found on the internet where you can listen to different sounds yourself and the guy on the video also talks about the sound effect on food ? Have some fun, try yourself and test with your friends or family. It is actually very fun to watch their reactions ?

Test how sounds affects the flavour: