What’s the Deal with Aftertaste?

Ever wonder why some food items leave a distinct taste in your mouth? The verdict is still out on a definitive answer as to what is the cause, but the leading school of thought is that it’s the leftover flavor of the food or beverage that was consumed.

To get a better understanding of aftertaste, it’s important to have working knowledge of how taste works. If you attend a culinary arts program online then you know there are five basic categories of taste. For a recap, here is a brief explanation of each one:

Sour – The sour taste comes from acidic solutions like lemon juice or other citrus fruits.

Sweet – The sweet sensors along our taste buds usually get activated when someone consumes something made with sugar.

Salty – There is an entire taste category dedicated to our sense of salt and how much is in a bite of food.

Bitter – Bitter is often an undesirable taste, but it’s an important one to point out. This flavor profile is caused by many different substances. There are 35 different proteins in the sensory cells that are able to pick up bitter tastes. People may have evolved to sense this taste to route out poisonous plants, some of which have a bitter flavor.

Savory – Savory, or umami, is the last taste, which is often picked up by foods with glutamic acid. A variety of items have a savory taste, including meat broth. But you can also sense umami in ripe tomatoes, cheese, asparagus and various meats.

Taste contributors
It’s important to note that various parts of the body contribute to taste, not just the tongue and its taste buds. In addition to the texture and the temperature impacting how the brain distinguishes flavor, smell plays a large part. The complete package of taste is produced when all the components are working properly. Now you know why food tastes differently when you have a stuffy nose.

All of these factors contribute to taste and aftertaste. Each of these components lingering on your tongue can be what your taste sensors are picking up. Build your culinary knowledge by learning which types of food have a strong or mild aftertaste. Ask yourself if it is sweet, sour, savory, bitter or salty and you’ll have more insight into aftertaste.


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