Most of us are born with around 10,000 taste buds on our tongues; many more and you’re a supertaster.
About 25% of us are supertasters– more women than men. It can be a mixed blessing. Flavors are perceived more vividly. Salt is saltier. Sugar is sweeter. But carbonation bubbles can be distractingly prickly. Hot peppers can be punishing. Hardly a garden of gustatory delights.
Taste is one of the most basic of all human experiences. It is also one of the most complex. It is dependent upon experience, context, and genetics. It embraces all of the senses.
It begins with the tongue.
Supertasters’ tongues are distinguished by two genetically determined traits. One is the profusion of taste buds densely packed into each square inch of the tongue’s surface. The greater sensory capacity leads to more nuanced sensing of flavors. The second trait is the perception of the chemical compound 6-n-propylthiouracil known as PROP.
Most people perceive PROP as a slightly bitter taste. About a quarter of the population will fail to taste it at all. Supertasters are overwhelmed by an intense bitterness.
Supertasters tend to prefer orange juice to grapefruit, tea to coffee, green beans to broccoli, spinach to kale. They have a penchant for creamy, fatty foods but as a group are thinner than the general population, perhaps because the palate is more easily satisfied. As children, they are often known as picky eaters.
Supertasters that succeed in developing tolerance for strongly-flavored foods can benefit from this genetic endowment. They can perceive far more subtle and nuanced flavors than the rest of us, distinguishing individual notes in a complex dish. Quite a few wine connoisseurs attribute their discerning palates to supertaster status, including wine writer Robert Parker who famously insured his taste buds for one million dollars.
Does this sound like you? There are a few tests to determine if you possess either of the attributes of a supertaster.
Bland, vile, or somewhere in between? The Supertaster Test Kit contains two sets of PROP-infused strips and a detailed test guide.
For an easy home test, swab a little food coloring on your tongue and check the number and concentration of taste buds.
Take this quick and easy quiz about food preferences to see if you could be a supertaster.