Researchers explore relationship between taste and temperature

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Researchers explore relationship between taste and temperature

Related tags Taste

The temperature of food can affect the way in which we perceive the intensity and profile of certain flavour, according to new research.

The study – published in Chemosensory Perception​ – reports that changes in the temperature of foods and drink can affect the taste intensity and perception of sour, bitter, and astringent tastes. Led by Dr. Gary Pickering from Brock University, Canada, the researchers explained that their studies have shown that the same food can taste different depending on the temperature – whilst some people also have areas of the tongue that produce taste sensations in response to hot or cold even without the presence of food.

Pickering and his colleagues said the results of their study suggest that up to 30% of people could be such ‘thermal tasters’: "For some individuals, temperature alone can elicit taste sensations.”

“These individuals seem to be more sensitive to tastes in general,”​ said the authors. “What our work shows is that, in addition to these sensitive individuals, the temperature of a specific taste can affect how intense it tastes."

Study details

The new study assessed the taste perception of taste intensities for sweet, sour, bitter and astringent solutions in people who were either ‘thermal tasters’, ‘super tasters’, or ‘regular tasters’.

Over three sessions, the 74 participants tasted the sweet, bitter, sour and astringent solutions at both 5o​C and 35o​C, before being asked to rate the intensity of the tastes over a period of time.

The research showed that changes in the temperature of foods and drinks have an effect on the intensity of sour, bitter and astringent tastes – but not sweetness.  Pickering specifically revealed that astringency was more intense when the solution was warm, whilst the flavour profile also lasted longer when the solution was warm.

Bitterness was found to be more intense when cold – with the flavour intensity declining faster with the cold solution. Sourness was more intensity and had a longer profile when warm, however the authors said that there was ‘surprisingly’ no difference found in the perceived sweetness between the cold and warm solutions – however they did reveal that it took longer for the cold solution to reach its maximum flavour intensity.


Source: Chemosensory Perception
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1007/s12078-012-9129-5
“Influence of Stimulus Temperature on Orosensory Perception and Variation with Taste Phenotype”
Authors: Martha R. Bajec, Gary J. Pickering, Nancy DeCourville

Related topics Science Flavours and colours

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