The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

And Thus the Mystery of the Hatred Towards Bitterness is Solved

[Italian entries shall continue soon! But until then, here is a random announcement.]

pouring coffee
Do Not Want

I took a supertaster test today, courtesy of Doug, who mailed some kits to the Serious Eats office to test the supertaster-ness of food bloggers. All you do is chew on a special strip. If it has no taste, you're a non-taster. If it's mildly bitter, you are a regular taster. If it's very bitter, you're a supertaster.

I placed the tiny strip on my tongue. Waited. Chewed. And then the horror set in. Oh my god. Tasted like. Horror. HORROR. The bitterness of the strip lingered like the smell of a dead rat stuck in the roof of a long abandoned building covered with moss and mildew and death. And rats.

Okay maybe not that bad. But I had to chase it with a spoonful of ice cream.

[licks inside of mouth]


SO THERE! Morten, Kåre and whoever else wonder about my malfunctioning coffee and alcohol tastebuds—there's my explanation.

Although I am now officially a supertaster (which is not a very special title, as it applies to about 35% of American women), all this means to me is that bitter things taste more horribly than they should. It doesn't mean I can discern flavors any better than other people, as apparent through my inability to describe the taste of whatever I'm eating with vocabulary that extends beyond the eloquence of "AWESOME!" I failed.

MID-DAY UPDATE! Ed just called someone at Jeffrey Steingarten headquarters to see if we could get HIM to take the taste test (he lives near our office, apparently). He wasn't available at the moment, but we've been told that he thinks the whole taste/supertaste thing is bunk and that supertasters are actually taste impaired.

Now that does make sense in my situation. I SHALL NEVER ENJOY WINE, EVER.

I'll save some monies.

END OF DAY UPDATE! Adam made a video while taking the test. I'm not in it, but you can hear my the side.

Indeed, Ed and I took a trip to Steingarten Central and I took a video of him talking about the meaninglessness of supertasting. Or normal tasting. I don't remember exactly what he said; Adam will post that online later.


Meggars / October 10, 2007 3:13 PM

I was told in a wine appreciation class that the higher incidence of supertasting in women was the reason that women tend more towards white wine than red. And also that it's evolutionary thing - women were the preparers of food, and had to be more cognizant of the possibility of spoilage or poison. The more you know!

Penny / October 10, 2007 4:17 PM

Also, taste is linked to smell...since women (smell better?) have a better sense of smell, it only follows that their sense of taste would also be better.

As for not drinking least everyone you eat with will have a designated walker/driver so that everyone gets home safe. Doesn't that make you feel special? (I'm mildly bitter about this, can you tell? I don't like to drink all the time, so I usually end up being the DD. Ugh.)

Tina / October 10, 2007 10:11 PM

Yay! You're somewhat an official supertaster!

I'm saying somewhat since I don't think this test, like Moffaen said, is infallible. When it comes to tests like the supertaster, *coughs* LSATs *coughs*, IQ tests, etc. can determine a person's taste superiority or intelligence but it doesn't have the complete picture of what that person's capabilities. Interesting but not necessarily meaningful.

roboppy / October 10, 2007 10:23 PM

Sera: Glad you noticed that. ;D Let me know your results!

Morten: I don't think it means much. It just proved that I can taste bitterness on a piece of paper. :(

I think even if I were a regular taster I still wouldn't like coffee.

Meggars: That's an interesting theory. I can definitely taste the poison...yess...

Penny: My sense of smell is...just alright, I think. It was much better when I was eating healthily though. Almost scarily so...when I was just eating raw food I remember being able to smell a lot of things. For better or worse.

I've never had to be the DD! But I mostly hang out in NYC, land of public transport. And cabs, I guess. :D

Tina: I think "super" is misleading. IF YOU'RE SUPER, YOU CAN TASTE BITTER CRAP! Yaay...aa?

Being a supertaster sure doesn't make your memory bank of flavors any better. Or better at describing food. I feel like it all comes down to preference; if I liked bitter flavors, then being a supertaster would be awesome. Because bitterness would be amplified.

But I hate bitterness. Hm.

Dining Dish / October 11, 2007 1:19 AM

A couple years ago I went to a Umami dinner featuring Tim Hanni, a wine master from Napa. He asked people who like salty food to raise their hands (I love anchovies, herring etc) not pouring salt on my food. As he ask other questions and my hand remained raised. He said if you drink coffee and I say if, you would load it with sugar and cream. It seems I am "a super taster" ...I have more bitter receptors than most. What few wines I drink are usually sweet not dry and definitely not red. I don't do coffee, never have, can barely stand the smell. I was pleased to hear about this post tonight at a gathering of Baltimore food bloggers. It is nice to know I'm not the only one who doesn't like coffee and doesn't do wine (well rarely).

And yes, I have a super snoot and at times it isn't a blessing.

Skikkelig Mort / October 11, 2007 10:54 AM

Yeah, you probably wouldn't. The thing is that these tests aren't neccessarily infallible. You very likely are a super taster, but you should probably get it properly confirmed. It'd be even cooler if you wrote about it (what it is, how it works, what the different tests are, the different ways of measuring it, what it means etc.). Just saying :)

Oh, and not liking coffee is fine (more for me!).

roboppy / October 11, 2007 6:52 PM



I hope!

Dining Dish: Yeah, I'd wanna load my coffee with sugar and cream too! I like...sugar. Yes. (Actually I'd rather not drink coffee! Yeah.) I can barely stand any alcohol though, even when it's sweet. Gah, acquired tastes...



I guess I need to describe it Someone's already done that though, I know it. Just too lazy to look right now.

You can have all the coffee, nooo problemo!

Doug / October 20, 2007 11:14 AM

I think its helpful to recall that having more taste buds (being a supertaster - if you will) goes well beyond a more acute perception of bitterness.

The supertaster test uses bitterness as an easily quantifiable measurement tool to determine taster status.

...must get test to Tina.

Charmaine / April 22, 2008 3:04 PM

I know this is a really old entry Robin, but I just took the supertaster test today too and I also experienced the godawful bitter taste of Satan...

Anyways, the professor (at Oxford University) who carried out the tests for us told us that Jeffrey had taken the test and was vastly disappointed to be told he wasn't a supertaster. Perhaps this explains his scepticism towards the concept? ;-)

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