It’s Bird, It’s a Plane!

No, it’s Supertaster! A man — or woman — with up to 100% more taste buds on his or her tongue than a typical mortal!

There is such a thing. In fact there are lots of them…living among us, existing in a flavor universe that’s up to twice as intense as our own. It’s thought that up to 35% of women and 15% of men are so-called “supertasters”, their super power being their ability to perceive flavors — especially those in the bitter family — at a much higher level of intensity than the rest of us.

The obvious question is: is that necessarily an advantage when it comes to enjoying food? Perhaps, though it might just as easily be a disadvantage. If you were by disposition rather picky, your experience of unpleasant flavors would only be intensified. Would it set you up for a career as a professional taster? Not necessarily, for while you might pick up flavor notes that other people might miss, those flavors would be irrelevant to 75% of the people you were supposedly tasting for.

It’s an interesting thing to thing to ponder. Take the test to find out if you’re a supertaster here. I just did it, and I’m not one. What exactly the implications are, I have no idea.

16 thoughts on “It’s Bird, It’s a Plane!”

  1. Do you know the They Might Be Giants song “John Lee Supertaster”? It’s on their children’s album NO and is one of our favorites. Your post reminded me of their song. 🙂 Love all of the discussion of taste and flavor.

    1. I’ve been meaning to get that album for ages. I think my girls would love it. Thanks!

      – Joe

    2. I started singing the song in my head the moment I read the first line of the post!

      “When he tastes a pear, it’s like a hundred pears (it’s like a million pears)”

  2. I can’t wait to try this out on my kids. Hey — don’t kids have a higher density of taste buds? Maybe my experiment won’t be accurate then.

    1. Good question, Kim. Honestly I don’t know the answer. I’ll try to find out.

      – Joe

  3. Our ability to taste bitter compounds decreases after childhood, and it’s thought that this is part of why we find vegetables more enjoyable as adults than we ever did as children…also why children in general want to use such large amounts of sauces on their vegetables.

    I wonder if supertasters avoid vegetables more strongly as children, as compared to non-supertasters.

  4. I’m not one either, I used to work with one though. It was a distinct disadvantage to her; she couldn’t stand the taste of any brassica, and unfortunately she was a vegetarian.

  5. I just did the test and I am a supertaster. I could have told you this – I was an extremely fussy eater as a child. I am still frequently overwhelmed by flavour combinations. I like things to be scaldingly hot or freezing cold (because it cuts down on the intensity). I do love food, but I need to have it in my own way as I am easily overwhelmed. Mind you, when I eat something I love, it is sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll in a bite. I’ve had people tell me they can’t watch me eat ice cream cuz it’s lewd. 🙂

  6. Well, that explains a lot. I’ve always been a picky eater, I’ve learned to eat many things, but still there are products that I can’t stand and those are usually bitter, for example many cabbages, brussel sprouts, cooked endive, black olives, curry with lots of curry leaves and grapefruits. I will unvoluntarily distort my face in a grimace of disgust, while my boyfriend thinks the food is all fine.
    What is not helping is that I have a very sensitive nose, so the bitter taste of brassicas in combination with the slightly sulfurous smell (even if you don’t overcook them)… ick. I’m quite sensitive to textures as well, I really don’t like mushy or slimy things. And I don’t like my foods to be mixed up either, because often one item overpowers the rest and I like to be able to taste everything.
    In one way it is a blessing, because it helps me to enjoy food a lot, but it also makes me a very picky eater, which can be incredible difficult when eating elsewhere.
    Oh, and as mentioned in the link to the test, I indeed taste the difference between skim and whole milk, also between skim and whole yoghurt and between 30% and 35% cream…. those are worlds of difference!

    1. Hi Ena!

      I used to love the show Monk on the USA Network (when Mrs. Pastry is feeling cheeky she likes to draw comparisons between us, though I’m nowhere near as gifted).

      As he likes to say of his super power: it’s a blessing…and a curse. You’re certainly living proof! Cheers and thanks for the comment,

      – Joe

  7. So as we get older and find we need to add more hot sauce, more seasonings, etc, is it because we have killed off our taste buds or desensitized them? And if it is desensitizing- is that the same phenomenon as the “sophisticated” palate mentioned earlier?

  8. My husband claims to be a supertaster, and it has been one of the most difficult challenges for us! I love to try new recipes, but I have to rule so many out because he doesn’t like certain ingredients, or flavor combinations. Even semi-sweet chocolate is too bitter for him. We will definitely be taking this test tonight – maybe if I can verify that he’s a super taster I will be more sympathetic to his pickiness 🙂 Thanks for the link!

    1. If bitterness is the issue, I’d bet money he has super-tasting abilities. It may be time to buy him a brightly colored unitard with a cape.

      Let me know what you learn!

      – Joe

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