Coffee, Education, Paul's Notes, Sensory Series

Paul's Notes - Are you a Superhero Supertaster?

You were a picky eater growing up. You didn’t overly like broccoli or Brussel sprouts. Perhaps, and I do mean perhaps, you were genetically wired to dislike such foods.

Tongue photo

The human tongue is wrapped in taste buds (fungiform papillae). These small, mushroom-shaped bumps are covered with taste receptors that bind to the molecules from your food and help tell your brain what you’re eating.

Supertasters are born this way. There’s a gene, TAS2R38 to be exact, that makes you sensitive to bitterness. This can be measured by your reaction to the bitter chemical called 6-n-propylthiouracil, which has been infused onto a piece of litmus paper. It may be the reason you add salt, butter, or sugar to foods. These foods can mask the bitterness. Hey, you’re a supertaster, you are super sensitive.

The stats go something like this, 25% of the population qualifies as supertasters (predominantly women) or non-tasters. And my favorite group, coming in at a whopping 50%, the tasters. In other words, the majority of us.

Enter the magnifying glass and PTC

Typically supertasters will have 35 to 60 taste buds in a 6-millimeter round section of the tongue. Tasters have about 15 to 35, and non-tasters have 15 or fewer in the same space. This can be counted under a magnifying glass.

Because it is genetic, there are heaps of easy studies you can do for various genetic traits like tongue rolling, attached earlobes but here it is the taste test.

By simply placing some litmus paper on the tongue, which has been laced with PTC, Thiourea, Sodium Benzoate or nothing (the neutral) you can see where you are at when it comes to salty, sweet, sour, bitter, or tasteless. Whether you are a superhero/supertaster, taster, or a nontaster.

- Paul Allen


Sign up to receive news about coffee releases, sales, and events.

Sign Up
pouring milk into coffee in white cup