Why Do We Make Our Taste And Flavour Choices?

When it comes to foods and flavours, we all know what we like and what we don’t like? But what is less certain is why we like certain things, and yet turn our noses up at others. It turns out that it is a far more complex issue than just like/dislike. Our life experiences and particularly experiences when it comes to food, our upbringing (linked to the sorts of food we were exposed to at an early age) and even our age, can all effect the tips of tastes and flavours we enjoy, and these can change as we progress through life.

V2, one of the nations leading brands when it comes to vaping and e-cigarettes, has recently worked with food innovation company Tastehead to create a study that reveals why foodies are drawn to some tastes and not others. It also covers how your tastebuds could be influenced and shaped from upbringing, early experiences and many more factors. Their findings are interesting, and reveal a lot about how and why we have certain ‘tastes’.

The first thing they revealed was the difference between taste and flavour. They say:-

Taste is what we perceive on our tongue and includes the following five: salt, sweet, bitter, acid and umami (the fifth taste often described as savoury/meaty). Just about everything else is a flavour (or aroma) and is perceived by our olfactory gland behind our eyes in the nasal passage. Therefore, when we say we can taste vanilla, for example, what we are actually doing is sensing the flavour or aroma of vanilla. There are some sensations in and around the mouth called trigeminal effects which include the more physical senses such as the prickle of CO2 in fizzy drinks, the different burns of chilli, mustard and horseradish, the astringency of tannins in tea and red wine and the cooling effect of menthol and mint. It is important to consider these when creating a recipe.

Much of our taste is actually scent, so this makes sense of why some things just tend to be non appetising – the smell of fish for example always turns my nose, whilst I find vanilla scents to be sickly, although I do like the taste.

So what else can have an effect. Well Tastehead say that you have to get used to some flavours that they consider more challenging, like olives for example, and that being exposed to more ‘marmite’ flavours from an early age can help you develop a taste for it that may not happen if you try it as an adult. Fashion can also be a key, salted caramel is cited as a trendy flavour to try, whilst seasons can also be an issue – some foods just taste better at certain times of the year.

You can find the full report here, it makes for some very ‘tasty’ (ahem!) reading.

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