All About Taste

All About Taste

Getting It Right:-

Over the past six years I have been lucky (sometimes unlucky!) to have tried hundreds of different flavours. One predominant trait seems to be that of over-flavouring eliquid; you often read of vapers using up to 30% flavouring in an eliquid, which seems crazy. UK and US vapers have a penchant for 'in your face' flavours that are strong to the point of overpowering. Go to Italy however and you will find the preference is more for subtlety and complexity. If blended flavours are overdosed they often lose the distinction between the key flavours and can be overtaken by the background flavours. The whole purpose of blending flavours is to create a mixture that has an overall pleasing taste; all of the key flavours should remain in the foreground with the space between them being filled more discreetly with the background flavours that are created during the blending and steeping process. If you painted a picture of five beautiful models on a white background it might look okay. If you added a busy background with lots of brightly coloured elements, the models might be lost or overpowered. If you painted a sympathetic background, say a nice blue sky, sea, sand,and a few palm trees carefully positioned, then you might have a good picture.
It is a similar principle when creating a blend of flavourings and the ultimate aim is to create something that people can savour and enjoy. It might be necessary to re-educate our tastes in order to experience the true complexity of some blends by using smaller amounts in our eliquid. This is something I have been trying for some time and I am once again enjoying vaping more without my taste buds being assaulted by intense flavours. There is so much pleasure in being able to hear each member of the flavour orchestra rather than just the bang of the drum, the strident notes of the horns, or the clash of symbals. Some will be more prominent but they should all blend together to create the perfect symphony with each note harmonised.

Try mixing some blended flavours at around 3% to 5% then fine tune your equipment to find the sweet spot and you could be nicely surprised, although it might take a while for your palate to adjust to the subtleness. Less can be more and with complex flavours that is often the case. Sometimes it will be necessary to vape at a lower power to find that sweet spot, sometimes it will require more airflow to find the perfect vape on a particular flavour; being able to 'shape the vape' by way of making minor adjustments is just as important as choosing where to sit when listening to the orchestra.

The “Taste Map”: All Wrong:-

One of the most dubious “facts”about taste—and one that is commonly reproduced in textbooks—is the oft-cited but misleading “tongue map” showing large regional differences in sensitivity across the human tongue. These maps indicate that sweetness is detected by taste buds on the tip of the tongue, sourness on the sides, bitterness at the back and saltiness along the edges. Taste researchers have known for many years that these tongue maps are wrong. The maps arose early in the 20th century as a result of a misinterpretation of research reported in the late 1800s, and they have been almost impossible to purge from the literature. In reality, all qualities of taste can be elicited from all the regions of the tongue that contain taste buds. At present, there is no evidence that any kind of spatial segregation of sensitivities contributes to the neural representation of taste quality, although there are some slight differences in sensitivity across the tongue and palate.

The Taste Mechanism:-

Flavour is a complex mixture of sensory input composed of taste (gustation), smell (olfaction) and the tactile sensation of food as it is being munched, a characteristic that food scientists often term “mouthfeel.”

Although people may use the word “taste” to mean “flavour,” in the strict sense it is applicable  only to the sensations arising from specialized taste cells in the mouth. Scientists generally describe human taste perception in terms of four qualities: saltiness, sourness, sweetness and bitterness. Some have suggested, however, that other categories exist as well—most notably umami, the sensation elicited by glutamate, one of the 20 amino acids that make up the proteins in meat, fish and legumes. Glutamate also serves as a flavour enhancer in the form of the additive monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Taste cells lie within specialized structures called taste buds, which are situated predominantly on the tongue and soft palate. The majority of taste buds on the tongue are located within papillae, the tiny projections that give the tongue its velvety appearance. (The most numerous papillae on the tongue—the filiform, or threadlike, ones—lack taste buds, however, and are involved in tactile sensation.) Of those with taste buds, the fungiform (“mushroomlike”) papillae on the front part of the tongue are most noticeable; these contain one or more taste buds. The fungiform papillae appear as pinkish spots distributed around the edge of the tongue and are readily visible after taking a drink of milk or placing a drop of food colouring on the tip of the tongue.

SALTS, such as sodium chloride (NaCl), trigger taste cells when sodium ions (Na+) enter through ion channels on microvilli at the cell’s apical, or top, surface. The accumulation of sodium ions causes an electrochemical change called depolarization that results in calcium ions (Ca++) entering the cell. The calcium, in turn, prompts the cell to release chemical signals called neurotransmitters from packets known as vesicles. Nerve cells, or neurons, receive the message and convey a signal to the brain. Taste cells repolarize, or “reset,” themselves in part by opening potassium ion channels so that potassium ions (K+) can exit.

ACIDS taste sour because they generate hydrogen ions (H+) in solution. Those ions act on a taste cell in three ways: by directly entering the cell; by blocking potassium ion (K+) channels on the microvilli; and by binding to and opening channels on the microvilli that allow other positive ions to enter the cell. The resulting accumulation of positive charges depolarizes the cell and leads to neurotransmitter release.

SWEET STIMULI, such as sugar or artificial sweeteners, do not enter taste cells but trigger changes within the cells. They bind to receptors on a taste cell’s surface that are coupled to molecules named G-proteins. This prompts the subunits (a , b and g ) of the Gproteins to split into a and bg , which activate a nearby enzyme. The enzyme then converts a precursor within the cell into so-called second messengers that close potassium channels indirectly. Just as important as ingesting the appropriate nutrients, is not ingesting harmful substances.The universal avoidance of intensely bitter molecules shows a strong link between taste and disgust. Toxic compounds, such as strychnine and other common plant alkaloids, often have a strong bitter taste. In fact, many plants have evolved such compounds as a protective mechanism against foraging animals. The sour taste of spoiled foods also contributes to their avoidance. All animals, including humans, generally reject acids and bitter-tasting substances at all but the weakest concentrations. The intense reactions of pleasure and disgust evoked by sweet and bitter substances appear to be present at birth and to depend on neural connections within the lower brain stem.

The strong link between taste and pleasure—or perhaps displeasure—is the basis of the phenomenon of taste-aversion learning. Animals, including humans, will quickly learn to avoid a novel food if eating it causes, or is paired with, gastrointestinal distress.