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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. http://www.moscowfood.coop/archive/ra...

                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: http://missvickie.com/howto/spices/oi...

                    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: http://www.woodchuck.com/our-cider/wh...

                                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 (www.cidery.com).

                                            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.... http://www.ukstudentlife.com/Britain/...

                                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.

                                  3. Yeah, it sound cool, doesn't it? Pierre Fromage, Super Taster! Able to leap a delicate camembert in a single bound!

                                    But being a supertaster isn't necessarily a good thing. It can mean such a hypersensitivity to flavors and textures that it reduces one's enjoyment of food. Dishes that please most people will often be too strong (pungent or spicy or just overwhelming) for a supertaster. Those many threads from chowhounds exasperated by a super-picky friend or spouse? That person is often a supertaster.

                                    For example, my picky husband (whom I call "Mr. Tastebud" for a reason) can detect even the most elusive flavor of stale nuts, so he often skips the best (in my opinion) treats for fear that he'd get an old walnut or something. He also can detect a teaspoon of coffee in a batch of brownies, which is really popular these days - he has to skip my friend's glorious brownies, even though we assure him that *we* can't taste any coffee.

                                    And a friend is such a supertaster that he eats almost no vegetables. He hates the "bitter" taste of most veggies, and also has a texture issue (common with supertasters). He manages tomatoes in completely pureed soup or spaghetti sauce, but that's about it - no broccoli or leafy greens or onions or carrots or anything. He won't even eat iceberg lettuce unless he's forced to. If it weren't for multivitamins, he'd die of scurvy or heart disease at an early age.

                                    Me, I'm happy with my leather tastebuds (I'm an undertaster). I'm often better off at restaurants and as a dinner guest, because I can easily "shrug off" flavors I don't like (such as green pepper). I've even been known to drink slightly corked wine if the other aspects of the wine are good. (That's pretty bad, isn't it?)

                                    It's interesting to learn that the concept extents to smells, too - but it makes sense. Strangely, my husband and I are reversed with regards to smell - I'm a "super smeller" and he wouldn't notice a spoiled carton of milk until it jumped up and bit him!


                                    13 Replies
                                    1. re: AnneInMpls

                                      Well-put, Anne! According to the BBC questionnaire I am a supertaster but the Sweet 'n Low test says nontaster. I put some food coloring on my tongue and saw that it was wall-to-wall papillae but no pink ones at all so I will try again, using a Q-tip...maybe I put too much on. This link reveals that things are not all that clear-cut: http://www.slate.com/id/2168768
                                      I secretly sprinkle Splenda on my pizza and don't touch the hot-and-sour soup until I've stirred in a soupspoon of duck sauce. Brassica are my favorite veggies. But I always have a bitter taste in my mouth and don't know if that's the heart medications (definitely cause dry mouth) or the instant coffee w/Splenda that starts my day.

                                      Like you, I am a supersniffer. Mother Nature's compensation? It IS interesting that even when the term is defined for them, people still want to be Supertasters.

                                      Mordacity, assording to the criteria if you want your pickles to be sweeter you'd be a NON-taster. Humbucker, sounds like you may have it backward, too. But what do I know? Pass the honey, honey!

                                      1. re: greygarious

                                        I repeated the food coloring test, this time properly, with a cotton swab (first time I put a drop directly on my tongue and overdyed it). This test puts me on the nontaster end of normal taster. Hope I can change the insignia on that spandex leotard I ordered! Wish they'd re-name those categories to something less biased-sounding.

                                        1. re: greygarious

                                          greygarious how do you deal with the dry mouth? My friend just recently started meds that really make his mouth dry. I was at my favorite diner with him and he downed two large glasses of water and a large glass of apple juice and was looking for more. The waitress was really busy so I told him to suck on some ice leftover from the water. His doctor says to try sugarless hard candy but he is a cruncher rather than a sucker when it comes to candy and ice so that stuff never stays in his mouth long enough for much relief. Any advice for him from you or other hounds?

                                          1. re: givemecarbs

                                            For GI-tract reasons, I drink a minimum of 2 qts of water daily so I always have water at hand (incidentally, I find it's easier to drink in quantity if it is not cold so I keep a jug on the counter). There are oral rinses sold in drug stores in the mouthwash aisle that have ingredients to keep the mouth more moist. Also, I think, special chewing gums. I haven't bothered with either.

                                            1. re: greygarious

                                              Thanks greygaious! My mom always insisted that room temp beverages in general were better for ya.

                                              1. re: givemecarbs

                                                Your mom was right...I keep reading on all these nutrition & health websites that drinking warm or room temp water is better for you than ice water; makes sense--it's less of a shock to your system.

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    That opinion (which I quibble with anyway) was about warm water that's been heated in the water heater, not water that's at room temperature from the cold tap.

                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                      I agree with you about just how unsafe it is but Val did mention drinking warm water, not just room temp, so I just tossed that in. We have the most wonderful water where we live. It's icy cold and doesn't shock my system in the least :) If I've had a glass sitting around for awhile, I've been known to run a fresh glass just to get that brightness.

                                              2. re: greygarious

                                                I had vicious dry mouth from a medication I was taking. It was so bad it was starting to cause dental problems. The hygienist recommended an OTC spray called Oasis. It worked great. There may be other similar items out there. Ask a dental professional.

                                              3. re: givemecarbs

                                                I realize this post is 2 years old but if this is still an issue you want to try things that stimulate the salivary glands, namely acid (lemon/citrus juice, acidic white whine) or something with a lot of umami (soy sauce, asian mushroom flavors, even msg)

                                            2. re: AnneInMpls

                                              Interesting subject, although I haven't had the chance to try the test myself.

                                              I'm also one of those who'd declare that the nuts and oils are stale/rancid, but it's more about being able to smell it rather than tasting it. Then I'd say I can't eat the zucchini at all because they're too bitter, and all desserts are too sweet even though I love dessert and so I could only eat a spoonful at a time. While my partner happily eats everything and says they are all fine.

                                              So does that make me a supertaster? I don't know because I seem to fail to detect good amounts of certain things, relative to other people: vanilla (because I have too much of it?) and tarragon (because I'm not familiar with it?), for example. These, my partner can detect way better than I can, strangely enough.

                                              Interestingly, I do taste the bitterness in my broccoli and the like, but at the same time appreciate that taste. It might have to do with my upbringing -- the Cantonese make dishes such as stir-fried bitter melon with beef, which I like once in a while but still find the melon too bitter to eat too much of. In Cantonese, "fu" is bitter, but "gam" is bitter but in a good way. Go figure..

                                              1. re: tarteaucitron

                                                How fascinating! I love that Cantonese has different words for bitter-in-a-good-way and bitter=not-good. It's wonderful that there's such a clear distinction. We need borrow these two Cantonese words into English as loan words.

                                                Me, I like many bitter foods, like dark greens, coffee, dark chocolate etc. But the peels of carrots are too bitter (in a bad way) for even my anything-goes tastebuds. I'd bet that bitter melon falls into the too-bitter category for me, too. (I should try it some day to be sure.)


                                            3. I used to have an unbelievable sense of smell, and I think I may have been more of a supertaster than I am now. Sadly, my sense of smell has been damaged over the years and it's taken some of my sense of taste with it.

                                              HO WAH- I'm easier to please these days, I guess.

                                              1. My son, who is 13, is a supertaster who also has Asperger's Syndrome. He was a very catholic (small c) eater until about the age of 4, when the Asperger's started to manifest. He is sensitive to food smells, textures, spices, and will suddenly steer away from his favorites for unknown reasons--"There's just something wrong with it, Mom.".

                                                I'm one of those people who detects layers and colors and brightness (a condition called synesthesia) of flavors, so he comes by his specialness honestly.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: marthasway

                                                  I'm not sure I'm a "Supertaster" because I don't have that issue with vegetables, etc. But I think I am a "supersmeller," which is why, try as I might, I just can't get myself to enjoy things like seafood and beer -- they smell so amazingly strong to me (and they're such unpleasant smells) that I can't choke the actual food or drink down.
                                                  Case in point? My husband opened the fridge for one or two minutes this morning, and it had some stinky French cheese it in. I could smell it all the way upstairs and yelled down to him "Close the fridge, it stinks up here!" -- he couldn't believe it! Same thing has happend in the past when he has opened a tin of sardines, even though we were one whole floor away from each other....

                                                  1. re: anakalia

                                                    interesting description, anakalia. i think i'm similar to you in that strong tastes don't offend -- i like many bitter / bitterish foods -- but strong smells do. i seem to do a good job of picking out nuances in wine and smell a lot of things from far off that my SO and others don't detect until much later (i.e. a small gas leak, the airplane bathroom on the other end of the plane)... on the other hand, i love good seafood and beer!

                                                    1. re: anakalia

                                                      I believe I am a super-smeller too, and becoming increasingly more so, possibly due to lifestyle changes (being more discerning about eating unadulterated/unprocessed foods, leading to a sharper sense). For example, I find myself holding my breath from the chlorine smell when I run the tap, and I cannot stand the artificial smell of "smoked" gouda anymore.

                                                      However, despite that, I love my mackerel, fish soups and stinky cheeses (although I do hate the smell they leave behind when the meal is over). Or maybe my sense of smell is still nowhere as sharp as yours -- I know it's not easy having an under-smeller partner cooperate without appearing too picky!

                                                    2. re: marthasway

                                                      That's my son as well. He is on the Asperger's spectrum, too, although he was not diagnosed until age 14. I'm almost relieved to know there's a reason for his extreme pickiness and texture issues. Makes me feel like I'm less of a failure as a mom!

                                                    3. I'm a regular taster, though I have a sensitivity to capsaicin similar to a supertaster's. Maybe it's just wussitude. ;)

                                                      I have gotten much better about it, but I just can't enjoy very spicy foods at all. The burning sensation completely overwhelms my ability to discern the other flavors -- and the pain can be extreme. I ordered a Thai curry as medium-hot in my favorite place several years, and I was immediately a mess after the first three bites: profuse sweating, running nose and eyes. Never mind enjoying the other tastes.

                                                      On the other hand, I have a friend who immediately covers his Thai food with two or three spoons of dried chilies, and enjoys is immensely. There's no way on earth I could even attempt that if I wanted to spend the rest of my day without pain.

                                                      I don't know a lot of people who are really into good food who also like it super hot (though I guess Anthony Bourdain and Bobby Flay are two celebrity chefs who've made something of a name for liking that).

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: dmd_kc

                                                        I always forget to bring a hankie when I'm going out for Thai or Indian food (which I can handle only in low-to-medium pepper heat) and wind up blowing my nose on the napkin. I don't think I've ever had food spicy enough to make me perspire or tear up. I don't notice other people sniffling but just assume they're more used to spicy than I. Capsaicin-containing foods are often recommended for clearing the nasal passages when you have a cold.

                                                      2. Maybe danhole's husband, Mr. Hole, isn't a picky eater, he's a "Supertaster." Sounds better, doesn't it???

                                                        1. I am told that I am a supertaster at a very early age. I can detect very small changes in taste (say using a different brand of soy sauce) while others can tell no difference at all. A chef friend of mine once try to do a taste test with different types of salt. I was the only one who could tell the difference, while no one in his kitchen could. They said in theory it is scientifically impossible to tell the difference, so I beat science!

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: kobetobiko

                                                            salts have different "terroirs," right? different mineral concentrations from nearby coastal erosion, sea life by-products, different crops nearby the salt-drying zones, with the breezes carrying scents, spores, etc. you can tell them you have a developed palate (or whatever the wine folks say).

                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                              If the salt isn't' melted into the food, then it is pretty easy to tell them apart. Like the Hawaiian red salt or lava salt, etc. However, I was talking about salt already melted into the dish, which was why my friend said no one in the kitchen could tell the difference apart

                                                          2. I took the BBC questionnaire and came out as a supertaster - supposedly finicky about food (well that may be true!) but I will eat nearly everything real and there are few foods (other than liver) I haven't liked. Guess I need the more scientific test since my SO tested as both a super and non-taster!

                                                            1. I used to be a Supertaster, but in recent years, my superpowers have declined and now I am almost a mere mortal (still a bit of a supersmeller). While I miss being able to brag about my superpowers (kidding!), I find that I can enjoy a wider range of foods and beverages now - including beer and spicy foods. I knew I'd lost most of my superpowers when I tasted Sriracha last year and actually understood its appeal. Previously it had been akin to Kryptonite for me. Now I actually own a bottle.

                                                              1. I was actually told I was a supertaster years ago. I couldn't eat any citrus when I was younger because it was just too bitter and sour to me. Most fruit was too bitter, actually. People used to look at me like I was crazy. I also hated spinach, coffee, brussel sprouts...
                                                                I've since spent time training myself bit by bit to try to get more used to bitter flavors. But I still can't eat spinach or brussel sprouts without some sort of dressing or sauce to mask it.

                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                                  Okay, here's one: I've never liked carbonated beverages of any kind (from champagne to beer to soda to sparkling water). I was at lunch with some chowhound friends, and one of them with a similar aversion was complaining about carbonation being "bitter" and I realized that she was right (although I don't think I tasted it as strongly as she does). We speculated that it's the carbonic acid.

                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                    aha! this is the reason "flat" sodas taste so different than when they had their fizz: (from wiki): "In many consumer beverages such as soft drinks ... carbonation is used to give "bite." The fizzy taste can be caused by dilute carbonic acid inducing a slight burning sensation, but is never caused by the presence of bubbles.[....] This can be shown by drinking a fizzy drink in a hyperbaric chamber at the same pressure as the beverage. This can give much the same taste as at sea level. In any case, the bubbles will be completely absent during this experience. If you were to taste a flat soda at this pressure, you might experience a much different flavor profile as carbonic acid has a low vapor pressure, and the only "bite" would come from other acids in the soda. However, in the case of Coca-Cola and Pepsi, much of the perceived bite is due to phosphoric acid, an acid not known for fizz or changes in flavor profile due to changes in pressure."

                                                                  2. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                                    I'm the same way! I never understood the appeal of grapefruit--I thought it was a form of torture (even with sugar!) Over the years I've survived in social situations thanks to lots of dressing on my spinach salads--now--gasp!--I even fix them for myself! Maybe I used to be a supertaster and now I'm not. BTW only on a post about supertasting can so many people wax poetically about their favorite hard ciders. My friends used to think I was crazy for drinking more than half of one--"too sweet" for beer lovers.

                                                                    1. re: mamma_spice

                                                                      I feel that way about grapefruit too. I find it totally inedible.

                                                                  3. I don't know -- I can taste the bitter in saccharine (and baking powder --yuck!) but I love me some brassicas. Of course, I also love coffee, so maybe I just like some bitter things?


                                                                    1. Though I can't stand coffee, most vegetables, and fish, I'm probably a non-taster. I like levels of sweet most people find cloying, and I absolutely adore really hot peppers and mustards. Foods that "gourmets" praise for their subtle flavors just taste bland to me. Please smack me over the head with strong primary flavors instead.

                                                                      1. I don't remember whether I thought Sweet 'n Low tasted bitter, I just remember it tasting freaking NASTY.

                                                                        I'm probably a regular taster, I can identify ingredients and everything but I'm not like my friend who finds my tap water too "sweet". Yea...

                                                                        1. I've known quite a few people who have a sensitivity to certain flavors. I've never met anyone whom I would deem a "supertaster" for all flavors/spices/herbs, etc.

                                                                          1. It's funny. My palate is super-sensitive to certain things and dead to others.

                                                                            For example, I'm soooooo sensitive to seafood tastes. I don't eat seafood at all because I can't stand that "fishiness". I can ferret out even tiny amounts of that taste, in all forms of seafood (shellfish and mollusks included). I can't eat it. If I am cooking fish for my fish-loving husband and accidentally lick the spoon, it's traumatic.

                                                                            Can I distinguish a steak from the Outback Steakhouse and one from Morton's if you blindfolded me? There is a good chance I won't. I probably wouldn't be able to differentiate between cheaper and more expensive cuts of cheeses either.

                                                                            I can't tolerate the sourness of grapefruits or the bitterness of broccoli rabe. I think coffee tastes nasty without a lot of sugar. I don't find broccoli too bitter though.

                                                                            1. I thought for sure that I was a supertaster--especially since I can't bear broccoli and anything bitter (like beer) takes me years to develop a taste for...I took the official test a few weeks ago and I am a taster...DH is a nontaster (no surprise there!). I have inherited my family's great sense of smell (not always a good thing if you know what I mean) and I think that makes a big difference in my palate. I can usually figure out recipes after a few tastes--I can smell the asparagus smell ;) From my research I learned that there isn't a "supersmeller" category because our ability to smell is too varied and it really is a mental awareness of smell that makes the difference, not the receptors in the taste buds themselves.

                                                                              1. I, for one, am not convinced that the tests to determine if one is a supertaster or not are accurate.

                                                                                IMO, detection and dislike of bitterness alone is not an indication of a supertaster. What I have observed, heard and experienced myself is that supertasters easily taste and detect bitterness, but that they ALSO taste all the OTHER flavors in an ingredient or dish that MOLLIFY bitterness. So, supertasters are not turned off by bitterness, but detect it as a mere part of a larger, complex whole. (My professional and personal "worlds" are populated by people with extraordinarily acute palates.)

                                                                                I think these tests that focus on sweeteners and the like are poorly designed. Sensitivity to bitter flavors can be merely a sensitivity to bitter flavors (a hypernosmia, perhaps), and not overall acuity. A test designed to register perception of huge variety of flavors of every type at ever-smaller parts per million or trillion would be a better test.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                  I am with you. I am not entirely sure category sensitivity equals ability to detect all tastes. A poster above talked about his/her tongue being able to cut thru to each of the particular tastes within a particular food (I am obv. paraphrasing). I sorta think that the combination of hypersensitive taste buds and dog like sniffer makes for a supertaster - well maybe supersleuthertaster. Some people are gonna be more sensitive to some things than others will be - I am talking overall. Wave an onion over my MIL's meal and the woman cops an attitude and thinks you are trying to sneak it in on her. But I am pretty she has no taste buds. No... I am sure.

                                                                                2. I wonder if being a super taster and super smeller go hand in hand. Anyone know?

                                                                                  For those who posted on the Canola - thank you for that very interesting info. Chowhounders... so knowey!

                                                                                  I wish I had some SnL to test with. I will steal some next outing!

                                                                                  1. I don't know if I'm a supertaster, officially. My tastes sometimes make me think I might be. I hate bitter and seem to be more sensitive to it than some. Green veggies, especially brassicas and bitter greens (and unfortunately I find most greens bitter, to the dismay of my healthy, salad-addicted friends and family) are something I've always had a problem with. My favourite flavours/foods can seem to be bland-ish (wrong word but I don't know what else to use) in comparison to friends etc. Avocado is my favourite food. I also have a weird addiction to canned rice pudding - some English brand I can't remember the name of, I LOVE that stuff. Also, junket. I don't know if many here will know what it is but junket is another favourite food along with avocado and it is quite bland, I think.

                                                                                    Not wild about anything 'sharp' tasting - I don't like lemon very much. Cilantro is foul but AFAIK that's something other than supertasting, no?

                                                                                    My favourite foods are creamy, mild, can be slightly but not overly sweet (I've never liked raspberry jam or raspberry based desserts because I find the flavour too sharp/sweet/concentrated, although I can do fresh raspberries). I love salty, though.

                                                                                    Hmmm. I need to get some SnL. Maybe I'm like this for some other reason, nurture rather than nature etc., it'd be interesting to find out.

                                                                                    1. I think there's a lot we don't know about tasting. I believe that much of the research on it, at least in the early days when the term "supertaster" was coined, comes from Linda Bartoshuk's research at Yale. And whether one was categorized as a supertaster, taster, or nontaster, was determined by the ability to detect PROP or PTC on a strip of paper, and how strongly one perceived the taste. This seems very limited to me.

                                                                                      By the PROP/PTC test, (as well as the tastebud swab and the saccharine tests) I am definitely a supertaster. My husband is not, but he is much better at picking out spices in food and flavors in wine than I am. I think he has a much more sensitive palate in spite of his inability to taste PTC or PROP.

                                                                                      I dislike many of the foods supertasters dislike--processed things, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, bitter foods unless they are heavily salted or have milk or cheese in them, etc. But I think some of the reason I hate those things is not because of the bitter taste that predominates, but because I cannot taste whatever compounds offset the bitter flavor for many people.

                                                                                      For example, there are many people on CH who love Brussels sprouts. I assume there are supertasters among this group. I grew up being served them fresh off the stalk and properly cooked, but have never been able to stand them. My best guess is that it's because I lack the receptors to taste whatever good stuff they contain to counteract the bitterness, not because I'm such a refined taster.

                                                                                      Because taste isn't really a health issue (at least, it's not as important as other issues), there hasn't been enough research to really determine all the components that contribute to it. The ability to perceive bitterness is just the start, IMO.

                                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Isolda

                                                                                        The New York Times had an interesting article in the science section back in 1997 --- check out this link:

                                                                                        1. re: trletu

                                                                                          trletu, nice article with good information. Like in the sixth paragraph where it says taste differences could effect who gets cancer:

                                                                                          "Such differences may even influence who gets cancer, said Dr. Adam Drewnowski, a professor of public health, psychology and psychiatry at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He speculated that those who avoided the sharp or bitter tastes of many fruits and vegetables might be at a higher risk for some diseases."

                                                                                          Towards the end is: "Dr. Drewnowski has found that supertasters tend not to like the strong tastes of many fruits and vegetables, which are the main sources of flavinoids, isothiocyanates and other cancer-preventing agents. PROP tasters do not like grapefruit juice, and many even find orange juice unpleasant, he said.

                                                                                          But foods like broccoli, which many supertasters do not like, can be cooked in ways that blunt the bitter undertaste, Dr. Drewnowski said. Asians tend to be supertasters, yet they eat a mainly vegetarian diet, often stir-fried dishes with oils and other flavors mixed in."

                                                                                          1. re: smaki

                                                                                            Please be advised that the NYT article in the link is 15 years old, and current scientific understanding of flavor perception has thrown out most of the ideas in the article.

                                                                                            PROP strips are no longer a test of flavor perception -- they account only for a
                                                                                            specific genetic sequence that some people have and others don't. If you have
                                                                                            the genetic sequence, you can taste PROP; if you don't, you can't. The test means
                                                                                            nothing else.

                                                                                            Also, a sensitivity to one bitter flavor (like PROP) or bitter flavors in general does not connote a sensitivity to tastes overall -- only to bitterness. The most sensitive palates (sensitive to all flavors, smells and textures) perceive bitterness not as off-putting but as a part of a complex whole, with other sweet/sour/salty/umami flavors in a food also vividly asserting their presence. To those palates, a bitter flavor in a food is simply a note in a chord.

                                                                                            The word supertaster is never used in the scientific world -- that's a pop culture term with no legitimacy that was first used as a joke in Bartoshuk's lab.

                                                                                            The taste bud theory was proven invalid about five years ago, as better medical imaging and testing revealed that other parts of our physiology were as important or more important than the number of taste buds (the number and transmitting ability of neural relays in each taste bud, the olfactory/taste interface in the brain, the brain's taste processing center, and so forth).

                                                                                            For example, you may have lots of taste buds, but if your taste relays to the brain are not transmitting a good signal (rather common), or if your sense of smell is slightly off, or if any of the regions of the brain that turn taste information into perception aren't working well -- then the number of taste buds means very little. Remember, just as we don't see with our eyes (we see with our brain, which interprets the visual information), we don't taste with our taste buds, but with our brain. The brain has to interpret the information it is sent, and no flavor/smell is registered until it does.

                                                                                            Another factor in flavor perception is your individual genetic sequencing -- this determines the perception or not of many individual flavors/smells. Recent genetic testing has determined that the perception of a large number of specific bitter compounds is directly linked to a specific genetic sequence for each of those flavors. This has nothing to do with taste buds or any part of your taste/smell physiology.

                                                                                            Genes are also thought to be responsible for increased perception of certain flavor families (mercaptans, for example, a group of sulfur compounds) or insensitivity to other flavor families (pyrazines, for example, found in green bell peppers and many other foods).

                                                                                            What that means is you can be very sensitive to certain flavors/smells and quite insensitive to others. To re-state, increased perception of one flavor or flavor group does not mean increased perception of all flavors by any means.

                                                                                            Even with your individual genetic sequencing and physiology, you can still learn to max out your own taste/smell abilities. This is a learned skill, and requires repeated exposure to individual flavors and smells, instruction, and good teachers or guides. But this is true of any field: we learn to recognize minute subtleties and nuances in a specific area of study.

                                                                                            Finally, don't forget to seek out current scientific information. Old information is replaced by newer, more scientifically valid information all the time, especially in regards to any area of the brain or perception or physiology.

                                                                                            Make sure the information is current, published in a journal, impartially funded, written by an author with no agenda (for example, wants you to buy something), and corroborated by other articles that independently came to the same conclusion. Most of the information on the Internet doesn't pass this test. Hint: better to search with Google Scholar or Google Books than regular Google.

                                                                                            1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                              Too true about the sense of smell. It wasn't until just last month that I realized that the reason I crave sweet and salty foods when I have a cold is that that's all I can taste well!

                                                                                              As someone who is sensitive to bitterness, I'm going to put a different spin on your "note in the chord" analogy: a note in a chord can be dissonant -- sometimes in an interesting (and thus enjoyable) way, and sometime in an unpleasant way. In addition, the chord can be out of balance if one of the notes is louder than the others. So, for example, a conductor who is losing his/her hearing in the top range might cause the high notes to be played forte when the rest of the orchestra is playing piano, putting the music out of balance for a person with "normal" hearing. To go back to food, a chef who is not sensitive to bitterness might think s/he included just the right amount of bitterness to balance the other elements, while to a person who is sensitive it could overwhelm the other elements.

                                                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                Allergies and being stuffed up also effects taste. I have hay fever. Sneeze, watery eyes and stuffed up bad sometimes. Especially when grass seeds or if pieces of stalk get under my clothes as when help harvest hay on a farm. Pollen certain times of the year in some places is also terrible for me.

                                                                                                My solution is a combination of things and everyone is different. For me air conditioning filters the air and fixes my problem - at times when want to be outside. Find eating local honey year-round helps me build immunity to allergies that clog my nose when outside for parts of the year - sounds weird but works here. Keeping house below 45% humidity and above 68 degrees heating with wood to remove the moisture helps big. Dust or stale air in my house is not good. Open my windows and doors to let nature blow through screens often (while probably nasty stuff by the 'jet stream' from Asia mixed in here in Oregon). Create additional air flow currents in house with fans whenever can. The combination seems to dry my nose and bigger than that my sinuses. Especially in the spring and summer when pollen can used to be a problem for me. Or when hike or ride in the woods in certain places outdoors as a kid. If ever gets too dry inside from wood heat when house is closed up when freezing outside - put a pot on the stove boiling water and crack a window.

                                                                                                With the above now can even help neighbors bring hay. Or hike in the woods. And drive through parts of the country without it a problem. Do feel the combination of eating local honey often year-round and clean airflow in the house helps me taste food better where ever I am.

                                                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                  Yes, I understand. The conductor and chef analogies are very good ones.
                                                                                                  Sensitivity to bitterness, as you mention, or saltiness or sweetness, could mean that flavor dominates all others, and renders the food inedible.

                                                                                                  Sensitivity to all flavors means that bitterness is still sometimes experienced as discordant, but that other flavors are so assertive the bitterness seems integrated and tamped down a bit. Go past a certain point, though -- too much of a bitter compound, a particularly obnoxious bitter compound, or too few competing flavors -- and the result is the same: the food is inedible.

                                                                                                  Thanks for writing.

                                                                                                2. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                  Maria, very well stated. One more thing to add is that research is starting to show that there are more than just the basic four/five/six/seven tastes that we were taught (salt, sweet, bitter, sour, umami, fat, hot) and there are more probably like 38-42 different tastes that we perceive.

                                                                                                  1. re: JMF

                                                                                                    I've never seen fat included before! (But it makes sense.)