Is Taste All Opinion? Objectivity & Subjectivity in Taste — InBetweenIsode #36 w/ Denny

4 responses to “Is Taste All Opinion? Objectivity & Subjectivity in Taste — InBetweenIsode #36 w/ Denny”

  1. What’s interesting is that all we really taste with our tongues are sweet, sour, salty bitter and savory; these are universal tastes, and surely everyone will agree if a tea is sweet or bitter or a little of both. Our ability to distinguish a certain type of sweetness or bitterness, things like stone fruit or vegetal, earthy or floral, McDonalds french fries or burnt leather, is all thanks to our nose and aromatic compounds. We can experiment by plugging our nose while taking a sip.

    Also, beyond the universal sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savory, I would agree things become much more subjective. Suppose someone with the “cilantro gene” phenomenon had absolutely no idea what soap tasted like, and they likened the unpleasant taste of cilantro to something else, something that I myself have never tasted before… Some weird object they stuck in their mouth as a child maybe. So really at a certain level it has a lot to do with psychological associations constructed by our own personal life experiences.

    • Brian, interesting thoughts!

      I think that upbringing will have a physical effect on your body and ability to taste / smell too.

      E.g. if you grew up with hyperactive allergies to your house cat, odds are you might not be able to discern these aromas quite as well as if you had a perfect sinus cavity. Likewise with folks who grew up with a smoker in the house.

      I think that the subject does have an influence and that influence can be subjective (are you paying attention? are you able to focus?) and objective (do you have the cilantro gene issue, do you have a tongue, have your tastebuds been damaged?).

      So while there is an objective thing to “measure” the instrument we measure tea with is ourselves, and that instrument is variable because we are variable.

      That’s why James and I can recognize the aspects of a cup of tea we’re drinking that the other mentions while also not really having that part of the tea make a big impact.

      We are just at a core level different measuring devices.

      Thanks for your comments — I should’ve made more mention of the important of your nose!

    • Actually, I don’t think there is even agreement about the main tastes of sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savory; not to mention umami. I have some real life experience of disagreements on this, and Marshaln talks about this on his blog here:

      I had a funny experience along these lines with bitterness and astringency. I used to define them as two different flavors in my mind. Then I read a post on KyaraZen’s blog where the two were defined, with bitterness being a flavor and astringency being a sensation. I had an “Aha!” moment when I read this and immediately adopted KyaraZen’s definition. The bizarre result of this is that I have a flavor called “used to be defined as astringency” that I don’t know how else to describe. I’m actually drinking a tea that has that UTBDAA flavor right now, it’s quite good.

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