June 2, 2017

VIDEO: Why One Person’s Sweet Is Another Person’s Bitter


You love a natural, sparkling Ethiopian coffee, your friend prefers a sweet, nutty washed Colombian, and your mum loves chocolately Brazilians. But why?

Why Do People Taste Food & Drink Differently?

This question is a little bit nature, a little bit nurture. Let’s start with the nature side of it.

Just like good eyesight, some people have good tasting abilities. But it turns out that people with a highly attuned sense of taste actually prefer… a little bit less taste. They want bland food that won’t overwhelm their senses – think balance, rather than brilliant acidity.

Find out more in this quick video clip.

SEE ALSO: Coffee Science: What’s Acidity?

VIDEO: Why Are Some Coffees Sweeter Than Others?

Tempted to do this experiment for yourself? Let’s break down the results you should expect. According to the BBC:

Number of pink spots on tongue (papillae) Type of taster How common in population
Fewer than 15 Non-taster/sub-taster One in four
15 – 35 Average taster One in two
More than 35 Super-taster One in four

Does Taste Change?

Take two people: one who drinks instant and one who drinks specialty coffee. Give them both a cup of 90+ Geisha. One of them will think it’s one of the best drinks they’ve ever had. The other? They’ll find it… odd. If they’re being polite, they might tell you it’s “very interesting” – but when offered another, they’ll stick to instant.

This isn’t just because of the psychological impact of expectations. It’s also because our tastes change. They change over time, but also in response to past experiences. They adapt to what we drink and eat a lot of. (Your friend whose eyes water with the first bite of a mild curry? They might be a supertaster, but they might also just need to get used to spicy foods.)

And that has a lot of ramifications for the third wave coffee industry. So let’s take a look at why and how taste buds change.

SEE ALSO: VIDEO: Why Does Cold Brew Taste Different?

SEE ALSO: VIDEO: Can Listening to Music Make Your Coffee Taste Sweeter?

What Does This Mean For Third Wave Coffee?

The subjectivity of taste opens up a lot of questions for the specialty coffee industry. We’ve quantified taste with a 0–100 scale of quality and the Coffee Tasters’ Flavour Wheel, based on years of research and refinements. There are training programmes dedicated to helping people recognise these smells and tastes.

Yet what does it mean when people taste differently? Well, it’s a reminder that industry opinions and consumer preferences may be different. You might find a coffee deliciously sweet, but some customers may still want sugar.

Secondly, it opens up the idea of training the palate and the importance, for people who want to improve their cupping skills, of tasting a wide variety of coffees.

Whether you want to provide a better customer experience, or improve how you taste coffee, understanding that people taste differently is a great start.

Please note: Perfect Daily Grind does not own the rights to these videos and cannot be held accountable for their content.

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