Today, we challenge you to close your eyes and imagine your high school biology class. Imagine your science teacher, dark-rimmed glasses, suspenders and all, asking you to open your old, musty textbook to page 193. You glance down at the page and see the picture of a giant tongue. Your teacher tells you that this is something called the “tongue map”.
The Tongue Map is False
At the time, this “tongue map” was the most accurate way to explain how we taste things and why things taste a certain way.
Since then, scientists have made leaps and bounds in the way we taste different flavors. In fact, many scientists have begun to disprove the tongue map that we all learned as freshmen in high school. Yes, our tongues do recognize the four different tastes—bitter, sour, salty, and sweet in specific regions of the tongue. But, instead of perceiving these flavors only in specific areas, scientists have begun to prove that instead, we perceive these flavors all over the tongue. Additionally, everyone’s tongue is different and can perceive sweet in an area where someone else’s tastes bitter.
Why We Can’t Rely on Taste Buds Alone
Taste buds aren’t the only things that make us detect flavors. As a matter of fact, our taste buds are pretty clumsy and are nothing compared to the thousands of nasal receptors we all have. Although the brain makes us feel like taste buds do all the work, we have to give most of our tasting credit to the nose. Way up in our noses, there are several patches of exposed nerve endings which are actually the only parts of the brain exposed to air. When molecules of a smell travel from the mouth up through the nose and interact with the nerve endings, we taste! The data is analyzed by your brain along with the data in your taste buds and your brain outputs a flavor profile. This is why if you have a stuffed up nose, things don’t taste the same way.
Burn Your Tongue on a Hot Cup of Coffee?
We’ve all done it—scorched our tongues on a too-hot cup o’ Joe. This is one of the biggest ways that we alter our tasting abilities. When our taste buds are exposed to extra- hot liquids, the heat literally destroys them. Luckily, your taste buds regenerate in roughly 10-20 days.
The Roasterie Cupping Experience
The tongue map, as a matter of fact, is NOT a proper representation of how we taste what we taste because everything tastes differently to everybody. We experience this sensation every day at The Roasterie. During each one of our cupping sessions, people describe the taste of certain coffees in a very different way. One of the coolest experiences of all is hearing people describe exactly what they taste. And when one person thinks a certain coffee tastes like soy sauce, another will say it tastes like brandy. When one says it tastes like champagne, another will say it’s flowery. We hear it all—and it leads us to believe that the tongue map just may not be a go-to guide for coffee tasting!