I recently completed a class on Mastering Chocolate Flavor offered by Ecole Chocolat. (www.ecolechocolat.com) The month-long class instilled in me a greater appreciation for the myriad of flavors in chocolate. The experience also caused me to ponder the impact of taste buds on the chocolate-tasting experience. Part of the chocolate tasting “homework” involved identifying the flavors of chocolate and where in the mouth those flavors were present.
Prior to the class, I had not given much thought to my taste buds. Taste buds are the sensory organs that are found on your tongue and allow you to experience tastes that are sweet, salty, sour, bitter and savory. The average person has about 10,000 taste buds. The type of “chocolate taster” you are depends on the number of taste buds that you have, and will determine whether you are a non-sensitive taster, an average taster or a hypersensitive taster.
If you have less than 5,000 taste buds, you may be a non-sensitive taster. Non-sensitive tasters do not taste bitter the same way that others do. Some non-sensitive tasters do not taste bitter at all. Non-sensitive tasters are more exploratory with their diet and enjoy rich and strongly flavored foods. Many chocolates containing 85% to 100% cacao may appeal to non-sensitive tasters.
The hypersensitive taster, also known as a supertaster, typically has more than 15,000 taste buds. If you are hypersensitive, all food flavors taste intense. Many hypersensitive tasters are sensitive to food textures, spiciness and temperature and are typically picky eaters. Many hypersensitive tasters do not enjoy the bitterness associated with dark chocolate (greater than 70% cacao content) and instead prefer white or milk chocolate with lower levels of cacao. Research suggests that women are two times more likely to be hypersensitive tasters than men. Also, Asians, Africans and South Americans have a higher proportion of hypersensitive tasters than Caucasians.
The average taster typically has between 5,000 to 15,000 taste buds. An average taster can taste the bitter flavors that a hypersensitive tastes, but it does not cause extreme discomfort. Average tasters can be picky or exploratory. I am an average taster as I enjoy a full range of cacao from white chocolate that only includes cocoa butter to chocolate bars with 100% cacao.
However, your preference for bitter chocolate or milk chocolate will not be determined solely by your taste buds. Genetics also plays a role. Scientists have determined that your love for sweet foods or your aversion to certain flavors may be based on a code written into your DNA. We will save the exploration of that topic for a future article.
If you think your taste buds influence your love for chocolate, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me your experience. Thanks a chocoLOT!