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Mar 14, 2009 09:29 AM

Are you a Supertaster?

This sounds like something we'd all like to be able to claim, complete with spandex suit and billowing cape! Especially since the opposite is, unfortunately, called a nontaster or undertaster, when in fact neither is better than the other, just a difference in perception.

Google "supertaster test oz" or see the Wikipedia entry for supertaster for information on the several ways to test yourself, and the implications for your dietary health. One is to put a packet of Sweet 'n Low (saccharine) in 5-6 oz of tepid water and taste. If it's strongly sweet, you are a non-taster; a mild mix of sweet/bitter, a regular taster; very bitter, a supertaster. Supertasters tend to find coffee and vegetables - especially brassicas (like broccoli, cabbage) in particular - bitter, so they may be "picky" eaters who don't get good nutrition. Non-tasters (I seem to fit this category) crave sweet tastes more than regular or supertasters.

It is interesting to learn that genetic differences affect our perceptions of certain smells and tastes. It used to be thought that only some people pruduce fetid-smelling urine after eating asparagus. Now science seems to think that everyone does, but only some people can detect the smell. There are genes that make musky smells attractive to some noses but repellent to others. The useful lesson here is that trying to "educate" a loved one to appreciate a flavor s/he loathes may be a hopeless task. While we often DO come to like foods that are "an acquired taste", it's not inevitable.

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  1. I lived with a supertaster and he had an amazing palate. He could always pick out all the individual spices and herbs in a dish - he would have made a great recipe spy! Brassicas didn't seem to bother him, though he did much prefer sweet vegetables like carrots.

    Interestingly, he always knew when I had used good pasta vs commercial brand - Latini would make him swoon. No one else ever noticed.

    I know that there are some strong preferences or dislikes that are built in to each of us. The smell of lavender is like a punch to the stomach to me. It makes me feel as if I am going to be sick, and my sister had the same reaction. But about 99.9% of the world seems to love it.

    1. How interesting. I think I'm going to try that SnL test. Maybe that's why I have a strong aversion to chicken and calves liver. But then why do I love goose liver and pates that have some pork liver? Thanks, g.

      1 Reply
      1. re: c oliver

        I would like to know that myself. I sometimes think it is a texture thing, but honest to God - when I smell calves liver being fried - even if the room is filled with the aroma of fried onions and bacon I literally - not figuratively - gag. Not one gag, but for like 20 minutes every so often. Same thing but to a lesser degree happens when I smell someone cooking with jack daniels as a maranade or sauce. But I think that is a different issue.

        BUT I easily gobble down - being very selfish and piggy - a whole terrine of pate. I make it a couple times a year and always get testy when my mom (another hound) gets a little to in love with it.

      2. I remember testing this in high school AP biology. I'm a supertaster. Bitter is always a very acquired thing for me; beer and coffee took me years! I became very particular about coffee very fast.

        34 Replies
        1. re: Vetter

          Ah yes, I'm not really a beer drinker. When in the UK, I will always ask my husband to pick me out a beer "that doesn't taste like beer." And I REALLY don't like strong (to me bitter) coffee. Gonna be swiping one of those little yellow packs. Don't suppose it works with Splenda?

          1. re: c oliver

            sweet n low is pink packet, so be sure and steal the right packet!

            sweet and low is saccharin, and splenda is sucralose, i think.

            1. re: alkapal

              Oh, s**t, I knew that!!! I use the yellow/Splenda all the time :)

              Why are you up so late? I just sent my friends home and it's not even 10 on the left coast. But I'm much older than you.

              1. re: c oliver

                i use the pink stuff in restaurant iced-tea, since sugar won't melt.

                i'm up late because....i'm a chowhound nut with insomnia. plus i'm listening to leo laporte's tech show on the radio.

                i'm not a supertaster, but i don't think one has to be a supertaster to smell asparagus-wee. <combining in one sentence the words "wee" and "taster" doesn't really sit well....>.

                i like broccoli, but not broccoli raab -- its distant cousin. i learned today that rapeseed (canola oil) is from the turnip family, like broccoli rabe.

                i wonder if the canola oil "stinks" to some people because of its origins as rapeseed (even highly refined).

                1. re: alkapal

                  I was just wondering yesterday what the eff is canola oil anyway and do I need it? I have it but when it's gone, should I replace it?

                  I and my husband both have asparagus pee but never thought that it was our nose rather than the other end :)

                  1. re: c oliver

                    >>>>I was just wondering yesterday what the eff is canola oil anyway and do I need it?<<<<<<

                    coincidence? i think not.

                    i think this site is useful:

                    i'm not crazy about canola oil. in addition to olive oil, i like peanut oil and corn or safflower oils.

                    1. re: alkapal

                      Those are my preferences also. When the canola is gone, I won't replace. Actually it's so damn old I should probably just recycle and make space for some more vinegar :)

                      1. re: c oliver

                        I'm so glad it's not just in my head- I think canola oil is gross and I won't use it.

                      2. re: alkapal

                        ap, I can't stand canola oil. I quit using it awhile ago, because I thought it was changing my food when cooked with it. I even have to admit that certain brands of olive oil will also put me off. I stick to vegetable oil mostly these days unless its a finishing oil.

                          1. re: sandylc

                            Could be; Cotton Seed, Corn, Safflower,Soy Bean, Sunflower Seed, Rice Bran Etc..... or blends of the same.

                        1. re: alkapal

                          Rapeseed oil was renamed canola because the manufacturers thought the original name would put people off. Originally, most of it was from Canada - the name comes from Canadian oil, low acid.

                        2. re: c oliver

                          If you're a supertaster, Canola oil probably tastes nasty to you. Some people notice a fishy taste in foods that have been fried in it, but I think it tastes "off" fresh out of the bottle (I'm pretty sure I'm a supertaster, at least, I've always been very sensitive to bitter flavors and can't eat most grapefruit or drink coffee or beer). Don't suffer, just toss that icky, artificially created Canola oil and get some grapeseed oil or, even more neutral, rice bran oil, for when you want an neutral flavored oil and/or oil with a high smoke point.

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            canola oil is "artificially created"? how so?

                            1. re: alkapal

                              The oil from the rape plant is naturally high in erucic acid, which is toxic. In order to produce an edible oil from rape plants, they had to do a considerable amount of manipulation of the original plant so that it produced seeds that were lower in erucic acid. Although this process fell short of true genetic modification, most rape grown has also been genetically modified.


                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                A little more to it.There is red rape and black rape,the man who has the primary patent on "canola" oil derived it from a long breeding progam of the two varieties.The issue is extreem bitterness of the original.Rape hasn't been mucked with much compaired to maize, wheat and countless other food crops.

                            2. re: Ruth Lafler

                              Room temperature canola in dressings doesn't taste bad to me, though I definitely prefer other oils, but I am one of the unfortunates who gets that fishy taste from high-temperature canola applications. Deep frying mostly, though some cooks like to use it in pan frying or griddle applications, where it's equally nasty. Fishy tasting bacon and eggs are not good eats.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                +1 Canola is "off". I avoid canola with Ruth and all the others who posted canola oil is a bad food. To the OP great supertaster topic and realize this post is old - feel great info and replied with something to add. Never heard of before this and noticed it reading CHOW. Still trying to decide what I am. More reading and plan to test myself - leaning supertaster going in. Disliked broccoli, most fruits, many vegetables, grapefruit, beer, adding any oil to anything, wine, and black coffee as a kid while developed taste for such things later in life. Learned even if do not like something at first can cook many things a certain way that eventually love. Did not like salmon at first when young - eventually loved smoked, then lox, then all kinds of salmon. Hate old nuts or oils that enjoy fresh, pass on at a point when find most others don't notice so are happy to eat. Never really into sweet of any kind. Do not eat Sweet 'n Low (saccharine) or any other sugar substitutes. Eat so little sugar when want sugar eat sugar like a spoon of it in a pot of spaghetti sauce - often use local honey but the little bear gets hard before use if not on it. Only have sugar in the house to feed humming birds. Undertaster sounds like undertaker, LOL. Do not want to be a non-taster, but will accept if am after more info.

                                Erucic acid in has been linked to cardiac muscle damage. Canola oil has erucic acid in it. Natural rapeseed oil contains very high levels of erucic acid (up to 45%), a compound that in large amounts can be toxic to humans. Canola oil is lower erucic acid rapeseed oil, LEAR oil. 'Special' rapeseed plants for canola oil produce less than 2% erucic acid. Some say canola is short for "Canada Oil". Canola is a name that probably rhymes with 'granola' on purpose (once a word linked to heath). Rapeseed oil originally smelled so bad people would not eat it - and ended up being bad for them if did. Was only used for industrial purposes. Canola is heated and highly processed. Partly to get rid of the smell as part of the production process killing anything natural that was once in it. Rapeseed is made into feed for things people eat. Smoke from Canola oil causes lung cancer - Amal Kumar Maj. The Wall Street Journal, June 7, 1995 pB6(W) pB6 (E) col 1(11 col in). Is just one of many scientific studies and websites united against canola oil as a food. Canola is not as natural as good EVOO. Yes canola costs less than EVOO, but you get what you pay for. IMHO all rapeseed oil including canola is best used as fuel (now diesel prices are up - rapeseed is the most common base oil used in Europe in biodiesel production).

                                In the house now: grape seed oil, a cup of saved bacon grease covered in fridge, coconut oil, EVOO, and flax seed oil. Mostly eat EVOO in moderation as tastes good to me on all kinds of things while is a developed taste - did not like as a kid and my 24 year old son does not like yet now. Learned carries flavor in food especially when oil is flavored with fresh garlic or ground chili peppers. Oil, especially EVOO is good to add to spaghetti sauce because helps the body absorb the good lycopene in tomatoes. Fresh oil tastes better to me than old oil. Rancid is terrible. Try to use only the freshest oil by watching dates close especially when buy in store and do not buy too much oil for your household to consume before it spoils. Learned long ago to smell before taste to use; *shudder* when think of trying to spit out rancid oil then rinse the awful taste of it still sticking all over my mouth.

                            3. re: alkapal

                              Hmm... had some rabe last night. I'm just the opposite - I love it and dislike conventional America-wide broccoli. But it was cooked with a lot of fat, which can make bitter a beautiful thing with the right salt balance.

                              I also love baby arugula but there's some really bad, bitter mature arugula sold around here that I don't like.

                              More and more lately, I'm liking multiple flavor types together.

                        3. re: c oliver

                          c oliver - have you tried hard cider? They have about the same alcohol content as beer but a slightly sweet or sweet/tart taste as opposed to bitter. Most British pubs have one on tap - I'm not much of a beer drinker either and find this a very nice alternative.

                          1. re: BobB

                            I have not. Thanks for the tip. When it's a real pub, sometimes the wine selections aren't very appealing. I'll definitely try hard cider. Thanks, BB

                            1. re: c oliver

                              I made it through England on cider. I can't take the taste of beer or wine, but cider works for me. Even better, because I find alcohol of any kind a little difficult, they serve hal-ppints, too. And the draft cider in England tastes so much better than what we have here.

                              1. re: rockycat

                                Rockycat - not sure where you're located but we have some very decent ciders here in New England, and some bars even have them on tap. Vermont in particular is a good source - see if you can find Woodchuck, it's pretty widely distributed:

                                1. re: BobB

                                  as i recall, woodchuck is pretty dry, right?

                                  1. re: alkapal

                                    They actually make a range of ciders - sweet, dry, tart (granny smith), even flavored (raspberry and pear).

                                  2. re: BobB

                                    Woodchuck is absolutely my favorite domestic cider. Once in a blue moon I can even find it on tap. However, the British draft ciders blow Chuck out of the water completely. Those ciders got me through England with a beer lovin' Spouse who had to try all the real ale he could find.

                                    And that weird typo in my previous post was supposed to be "half-pints."

                                    1. re: rockycat

                                      as do some of the multiple AWARD winning small production New York ciders 2 or 3 years in a row they have won most of the best in show
                                      Govenor's medals

                                      1. re: lcool

                                        Those do sound good - can you name names please?

                                        And for the record, I wasn't claiming Woodchuck is the best, just that it's pretty easy to find and not a bad place to start.

                                        1. re: BobB

                                          as I unpack and re-rack my wine cellar after this move I will name names.
                                          First encounter was at the NY wine/food center tasting room in Canadaigua NY finger lakes region.??google?? state/county fairs NY and there should be some info.2 or 3 years in a row ciders and craft beer stole the show for prizes in the ?fermented division
                                          Also there are 2,maybe 3 French cidres that are wonderful.I will watch for names.

                                          1. re: lcool

                                            There's a cidery outside of Ithaca NY, called Bellwether, with very tasty ciders. I haven't found them available locally (Ohio) but was able to order on-line (

                                            1. re: Niki in Dayton

                                              They have a marvelous product.Lucky for us we have family in NY.They come here 2 or 3 times a year in an RV or VAN.I am shameless,always email a wish/shopping list for NY and Pa along the route.

                                2. re: c oliver

                                  c, i looked up what i recalled was a pleasant drink, a "shandy" -- combination of lemonade and beer <sounds strange, tastes good>, and i came upon this little "pub" guide. just thought some things were interesting, e.g., the origins of some names/signs....

                                3. re: BobB

                                  I lived in London for a few years and spend a lot of time in England and this has been my experience exactly. My English friends and relatives never gave up trying to get me to drink different beers but I just find the vast majority of it too bitter.

                                  All I can say is, if you're at the pub with a bunch of Brits and choose to drink cider, prepare to take much ribbing on having the tastes of a teenaged girl. :)

                                  1. re: montrealeater

                                    It's worse than that... when my wife and I went to London on our honeymoon many years ago and ordered beers, the bartender assumed I wanted a pint. When I told him a only wanted a half pint, he looked at me dubiously and when he served me, said, "anything else, miss?"

                            2. I think I'm an under-taster. Most food tastes quite bland to me. I try to avoid eating Cantonese, Afghan, and upscale Japanese cuisine because usually I'll end up unsatisfied. I'm even under-stimulated by natto, stinky tofu, game meat, etc.

                              Sometimes I wish I was a super taster; it would be so nice to be able to appreciate subtler tasting food.

                              1. I might be a supertaster. I adore coffee-flavored things but actual coffee is too much for me, especially if it's been over-roasted. There are one or two things I've never been able to train myself to like, no matter how hard I've tried. Pickles and olives and grapefruit, except with a ton of sugar on it.
                                I've also noticed, especially with beer and wine, that I tend to be more attuned to layers of flavor and where each one hits on the tongue.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: mordacity

                                  For the most part, I'm like that with coffee. Love coffee-flavored desserts, and enjoy the odd Starbucks-style frou-frou hot coffee drink because it's sugared enough to hide the bitterness. Strongly dislike coffee in its traditional form, which disappoints me because good coffee has such a wonderful smell and it never ever tastes like it should taste based on that smell.

                                  I like sourness at a fairly high level when it's paired with sweet. It's hard for me to find someone else's lemonade that's sour enough for my taste and that doesn't just taste like sugar water.

                                  I also dislike the brassicas (though I do like cole slaw if there's enough vinegar in it to cut the bitterness of the cabbage) and can sometimes taste the fishiness in canola oil used for fried food. Though it's generally tolerable because if I'm eating fries, I'm usually eating them with a fish sandwich so it just kind of blends.

                                  1. re: beachmouse

                                    Well it might help to know that in almost any cafe the espressos are not properly prepared, which also affects any of the espresso-based drinks, such as Lattes, Cappucinos, Machiatos, etc., plus many of the frou-frou drinks built upon an espresso base. Of course at some point so much has been added that a poorly constructed espresso may no longer matter!

                                    So I suspect that you may not have had the chance to taste a properly prepared espresso, which is not a slight against you, but rather against most cafes and coffee shops out there. There is a very famous "espresso evangelist" by the name of David Schomer who runs Espresos Vivace in Seattle. I believe he has said the wisest thing about espresso that has ever been said is such few words.

                                    He claims that a properly prepared espresso tastes like roasted coffee smells.

                                    How true. I agree 100%. So if you like the smell of roasted coffee, more than likely you would like espresso. Now the only problem, and it is not an easy one, is to find a properly prepared espresso in your metropolitan area. (My claim is that most metropolitan areas have no shop that properly prepares an espressos, and the lucky ones have a few, and the rare ones have multiple choices...)

                                  2. re: mordacity

                                    mordacity, try a bit of salt on the grapefruit - it dulls the bitterness for supertasters.