Drinking as a supertaster
Jun 20, 2018
Do you despise coriander due to its soapy taste? Or find IPAs overwhelmingly bitter? You might be a supertaster.
This phenomenon could be responsible for our disliking of many foods and drinks, and establishing whether we are supertasters or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, non-tasters, could help us to learn more about our preferences and even help chefs to shape their menus.
What is a supertaster?
The term ‘supertaster’ dates back to the 1990s when Linda Bartoshuk of Yale University found that some people reported a bitter aftertaste to saccharin – an artificial sweetener. According to a report by The Guardian, Bartoshuk found that the tongues of supertasters were densely populated with papillae (taste buds). Roughly 25% of people are supertasters, 50% are classed as ‘medium tasters’ and 25% are non-tasters. According to The Guardian report, women and people from Asia, Africa and South America have higher percentages of supertasters.
One quick test could reveal whether you are, indeed, a supertaster. Or worse, a non-taster. The laboratory assessment involves tasting a drug called propylthiouracil (or PROP) which is commonly used to treat an overactive thyroid. If you find the taste extremely bitter, you’ll be classified as a supertaster.
Characteristics of supertasters
For supertasters, sugar will taste sweeter, sodium will be saltier, and bitterness is utterly unbearable. However sensations also come into play. Carbon dioxide bubbles and chilli peppers will feel more pronounced. Other findings from studies revealed that fat is reported as creamier, and that supertasters are less likely to enjoy alcoholic drinks, coffee and rich desserts.
Many assume that the world’s top chefs and foodies must be supertasters, however it can also be a hindrance. Johnny Zhu, development chef at The Cooking Lab, told The Guardian: “I have a preference towards certain things and I sometimes don’t give other foods a fair chance. For instance salad is just repulsive to me.”
Among the foods supertasters commonly dislike are: Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, coffee, grapefruit juice, coriander, horseradish, liquorice, mushrooms, tonic water and olives. Supertasters may also dislike tannic wines, or wines that have sharp, intense flavours. Bitter pale ales, IPAs, gin and tonics (due to the quinine in the tonic) are also often unappealing to supertasters. In his book The Science of Wine, Dr. Gary Pickering, professor of Biological Sciences and Psychology/Wine Science at Brock University says: “I would speculate that supertasters probably enjoy wine less than the rest of us. They experience astringency, acidity, bitterness and heat (from alcohol) more intensely, and this combination may make wine – or some wine styles – relatively unappealing.”
Adapting to suit tastes
Due to the quinine in tonic, the classic British G&T can be insufferable to supertasters. However alternative mixers with non-bitter fruits such as strawberries and raspberries may do the trick. And while the craft beer movement may terrify your overly sensitive taste buds, there are plenty of beers out there that will suit those who dislike bitter tastes. Wheat beers, brown ales and lagers are your best bet. Riesling wines are recommended for those who often find wine to have a bitter taste.
The restaurant industry has recently started devising tasting menus tailored to your taste buds. Last year, chef Timothy Roberts of Vox Table in Austin, Texas, personalised his menus for different tasters. Before the meal began, people were asked to test their taste buds with chemically coated paper strips, and then fill out a brief questionnaire. Using this information, the chef amended his menu according to whether the guests were supertasters, non-tasters, or somewhere in between.
Customisation is an integral part of dining and drinking experiences today. Peoples’ tastes and dietary requirements should, of course, be taken into consideration at all times, however it’s exciting to see chefs and mixologists take on board the levels of bitterness, acidity or sweetness that their guests are sensitive to, to guarantee that everyone enjoys their meals equally.
Could alcohol-free bars be the answer to the UK’s rise in sobriety?
With alcohol-licensed venues closing due to plummeting drinking rates, could alcohol-free bars and nightclubs be the answer to the UK’s rising teetotalism?Read More
The top sugar-consuming nations and what they are doing to cut back
We look at three of the top sugar-loving countries in the world and what they are doing do cut back on their nation’s excessively high sugar intake.Read More
Why do social situations usually have to mean drinking?
Not all social situations have to involve alcohol. In this article I discuss the benefits a booze-free night can have on your lifestyle.Read More
Authenticity and the changing face of luxury
As brands strive to meet the increasing demands of consumers, an emphasis on authenticity and personal experiences is changing the meaning of luxury.Read More
Looking at the sugar in Christmas drinks 2018
This year I wanted to take another look at the shocking truth about sugar-laden Christmas drinks and explore whether coffee shops have tried to make a change.Read More
The future of sobriety: Alcohol-free clubs, societies and festivals
Are alcohol-free festivals like Mindful Drinking Festival, events that bring together likeminded people to celebrate not drinking, the future of sobriety?Read More
Is Pepsi buying SodaStream a clear sign that people want more customisation?
Does PepsiCo’s recent purchase of SodaStream show that even the biggest brands in the soft drinks market are hearing the call for customisation?Read More
The rising popularity of non-alcoholic beers
As people shift away from drinking, beer companies have been quick to start developing their own non-alcoholic brews in order to keep up with new demands.Read More
The truth about sugar: Should we be doing more to give it up?
It’s excellent that consumers are wising up to the potentially harmful effects of sugar. But should we be doing more to give it up?Read More
How to start catering for people who aren’t drinking
With so many people turning to sobriety, it can be hard for restaurateurs to know where to start when catering for those who aren’t drinking alcohol.Read More
Generation sober: why are millennials cutting back on alcohol?
With drinking rates among British adults at their lowest in 18 years, why aren’t millennials drinking alcohol like the generations before them?Read More
Mintel features Kolibri in its trend setters report
Kolibri Drinks is featured in the Mintel Trend setters report and describes how Kolibri has removed all the sugar from its botanical drinks using a new bottle format that allows consumers to control how sweet their drink is.Read More
How should the bar industry entice customers away from the sofa?
Although millennials are not as interested in staying home as older people, traditional pubs and bars should be concerned. Younger consumers are drinking less alcohol and seeking out fresh and exciting experiences.Read More
Other countries taking up the mantle of the sugar tax
Since the Soft Drinks Industry Levy was introduced in the UK in April 2018, other countries have started taking up the mantle of the sugar tax.Read More
Are adult milkshakes a push back against the clean eating trend?
Replica American diners are popping up all over the UK and with this trend comes a barrage of sugar-laden milkshakes. Topped with Oreos, sweets and even doughnuts, milkshakes are having their moment in the spotlight.Read More
Should we be scared of artificial sweeteners?
Artificial sweeteners are making the headlines again, and not for the right reasons. There are millions of consumers worldwide who happily drink diet fizzy drinks which seem virtuous because they replace sugar but in reality maybe the artificial additives are not as helpful as we imagine.Read More
Soft drinks sugar solutions post sugar tax
The sugar tax has been hotly debated since it was first mentioned back in 2016 but now, two years on, it has come into action and divided not only the nation, but the entirety of the soft drink industry. While many people are throwing accusations of Nanny State, others are likening it to the taxation of the Tobacco industry.Read More