Flavor Descriptors: Facts About Flavors
Ever wonder what really makes up flavors and smell? Not all molecules are detectable through olfaction, but some odorous molecules create a chemical stimulus in the brain that we called “smell.” How, you ask? These specific molecules bind to receptor proteins extended from cilia, initiating an electric signal to the brain.
An aroma is caused by one or more volatilized (changing into a gas state) chemical compounds, generally at a very low concentration, that humans or other animals perceive by the sense of olfaction. Aromas can be pleasant and unpleasant.
Smell vs. Taste
Approximately 80% of what we perceive as taste is in fact, due to our sense of smell. This occurs with both nasal (through the nose) and retro-nasal (through the back of the throat) olfaction or smell.
Taste is the sensation produced when a substance in the mouth reacts with our taste receptor cells located on our taste buds in the mouth, mostly on the tongue. A few known taste sensations: Bitter, Sweet, Salty, Acid (Sour), Umami (Savory) and possibly Kokumi (Hearty/Starchy).
We could define flavor as the blend of taste and smell sensations induced by a substance in the mouth. Taste and Smell vary depending on genetic makeup, gender, health, training, environmental factors and fatigue… BUT we don’t just sense flavor with our tongues. We also use touch, sight, sound, temperature, trigeminality to create the sensation in our brains that we call FLAVOR.
Most people are average tasters, but some people have many more taste buds than the rest of us. We call them Supertasters. It doesn’t mean they’re flavor connoisseurs or foodies (sorry about that), but it does mean they are extra sensitive to bitter tastes. Supertasters often report that foods like broccoli, cabbage, spinach, grapefruit and coffee taste very bitter.
Flavor Description and Evaluation
We can affect the flavor of food by how it is described. For example, protein bars might taste less desirable if they are described as soy protein and yogurt. And ice cream is perceived to be more flavorsome when described as full fat or high fat. In order to evaluate flavors, there’s a few suggestions that will help your accuracy. Evaluate the taste in a room free of smells, sounds and other sensory stimuli. Do not smoke, or drink coffee or alcohol prior to flavor tasting. Closing your eyes when tasting or smelling is helpful. Most importantly, if you need assistance with flavor description, consult Sensapure Flavor Descriptors for a description of the aroma profile that describe what you are tasting. We also recommend using the Sensapure Tasting Notes when evaluating flavors.
Particularly in the afternoons, as the day progresses, our sense of smell and taste can change, and most of the time is diminished. Avoid evaluating flavors late in the afternoon or after consecutive tastings. If you experience flavor fatigue, go outside to get a fresh breath of air. Eating unsalted soda crackers is also a very effective way of neutralizing aftertaste.