Tasting is a complex process involving all your senses. Sure, taste happens in the mouth, but that’s only a small part of the story. Tasty foods always come with their own texture, appearance, aroma, flavor culminating in a holistic experience that can be simultaneously jarring and pleasurable.
Since taste is so multi-faceted, here are a few taste-centric words for a deeper appreciation of your food choices and preferences. Also, all of these taste terms are perfect Word of the Day candidates to explore with your fellow food loving friends and family.
Time to tuck in!
Mouthfeel is exactly what it sounds like: the texture, temperature and “touch” of food as experienced by your mouth. It’s grittiness between your teeth, creaminess on your tongue, or smoothness sliding across your palate. All these sensations provide valuable context about food to our bodies and contribute to the pleasure and enjoyment we derive from eating.
It sounds like a word from a Shakespearean insult, but hesperian scents are actually far more pleasant. Hesperian refers to citrus aromas like orange or lemon. Next time you’re garnishing salmon with lemon, muddling kumquats for cocktails, or writing food poetry ( no judgements), you’ll know how to describe that fresh, bright scent wafting through your home.
It’s aces on grilled eggplant or caramelized souffle, but bad news for pie crust or garlic bread. Empyreal aromas give the impression of smoke, fire, and burning. You might be surprised where you find empyreal aromas. The toasted grains of bread or caramelized sugars of toffee, for example, both has something in common.
You’re probably familiar with the four basic of tastes sour, sweet, salty, and bitter. But did you know there’s a fifth taste called umami? Umami is often described as a savory or “meaty” mouth-filling taste. Want to experience it? Nosh on some mushrooms, anchovies, blue cheese, or soy sauce. That unctuous savoriness you experience with all those foods? That’s umami.
The spicy heat of a habanero pepper, the coolness of mint leaves, the electric numbing of Sichuan peppercorns…these are all examples of chemesthesis. This mouthful of a word refers to sensations that tickle or play tricks on our senses. There are all kinds of ways to experiment with chemesthetic foods; anise, fresh clove, dill seed, ginger, and carbonation are just a few ways to punch up dishes. Since compounds responsible for burning, cooling, or tingling are sometimes volatile (they fade the longer the spice is on the shelf), the fresher the better!
The quantity of taste buds on your tongue is key to understanding which taster type (nontaster, taster, supertaster) you might be. About 25–30% of the population is a “supertaster” aka a person with a higher density of taste buds. The tell of a supertaster is that they experience bitter, salt, and sweet with far more intensity. Barb Stuckey wrote the book on taste which is illuminating and contains a quick, at home exercise to help you understand where on the taster spectrum you fall.
Got another taste term you think we should chew on? Share it with us→ email@example.com