Coffee and the senses

21 March, 2016

Coffee is enjoyed by millions of people throughout the world and its ingredients have been extensively researched and talked about for many years. The sensory experience when drinking a cup of coffee is one of the key aspects of the drink which provides unique tastes, aromas and flavours. The different types of coffee, level of roasting and preparation techniques all impact the overall sensory experience of drinking coffee. In this blog we describe the sensory qualities of coffee and the factors that influence these, and the multi sensory experience that contributes to the overall enjoyment of consuming a cup of coffee.

Aroma, taste and flavour

Even though aroma, taste and flavour are closely connected, they all have distinct definitions. Aroma is defined as an odour that is sensed through the nose and the back of the mouth, taste is experienced via the tongue and can identify salt, sweet, sour and bitter, and Umami (Savouriness) and flavour is a combination of them both. Sensory experts de-scribe the taste and aroma of coffee in great detail and are able to differentiate between the different origins, varietals and process of the coffee beans but also the levels of roast and preparation methods too.

Multi-sensory interactions

Coffee provides a complex blend of different flavours, which together produce a range of sensory experiences. The preparation and drinking of coffee provides a complex multi-sensory experience generated by the combined senses of smell, taste, vision and touch. This experience is also influenced by temperature and the environment in which it’s consumed.

The full sensory experience starts from the period of preparation through to drinking. Starting with the aroma when opening the container, to the visual cues when preparing the drink including the colour of the coffee, cream and even the foam. The sensory experience may even start on entering the coffee shop and hearing the sound of the cof-fee machine working.

Finally, both the aroma and taste both contribute to the experience of consumption. When adding milk and sugar, this not only alters the flavour profile but may also impact the aroma. In fact, research has shown that even adding milk with different types of fat content can dramatically change the taste of the coffee and its aroma.

Appearance also plays a vital role in the sensory experience and may even impact on the perceived taste. This is not just limited to the colour of the coffee and latte art….it can even be influenced by the type of cup or mug that it is served in. Studies have shown that a white mug enhanced the intensity of the coffee taste and was described as less sweet than the same drink which was in a transparent or blue mug!

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