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A chef's easy guide to the difference between taste and flavour (flavor)

Updated on February 22, 2015

Taste And Flavour (Flavor)

What`s the differenced between taste and flavour (Flavor)
What`s the differenced between taste and flavour (Flavor) | Source

The Basics Of Taste and Flavour (Flavor)

What is the difference between taste and flavour anyway? This is something I have been asked many times by young chefs and customers alike.

OK let's start with taste. Very simply taste is; SWEET, SOUR, SALTY, BITTER and the new one UMAMI (which I will elaborate on in a minute}. Some scientists say fat is also a taste, personally I think that fat is a sensation on the tongue rather than a taste. I don't have test tubes, micro-scopes or a white coat, I just aim to cook food that people enjoy. We get taste from our taste buds which is a chemical reaction triggered to the brain.

Take salt. Salt is the combined chemicals of sodium-chloride, Too much of it is not good for you or for the taste of the food you are making. But our bodies need some salt and so do the dishes we cook in the kitchen. Think of it from mother nature's point of view:

> Salt is a mineral, OK, good, we need small amounts of that.

> Sweet taste is a good taste, it makes us think high energy: bananas, honey, etc, we need some of that too.

> When it come to sour tasting foods we tend to take it a little easy. Most people don't eat too much sour food, like lemons, under ripe fruit, etc. Sour things are not bad for us but the taste could make us proceed with caution.

> Bitter taste as you know is not nice and lets us know not to eat that food, or to eat very little of it.

> Umami, known as the new boy / fifth taste, is described as meaty and savoury, and I say a little earthy, like mushrooms.

Umami comes from the Japanese word umai, which means delicious. The Japanese were the first to recognise umami as a taste around a hundred years ago, and it's only in the last 10 to 20 years that have we really started to acknowledge it as a taste in the West.

So I expect you still think that you can taste more than that... Err no, actually that is flavour! What is flavour then, you ask. Well Flavour is a combination of taste plus many other sensations and factors such as aroma, texture, juiciness, sensation or 'feel' of the food on the tongue and even colour. Ok so perhaps this is where I need to prove the theory. We are going to do a quick experiment. It's more fun and works better with another person!

Taste and Flavour (Flavor) Test

The Taste And Flavour(Flavor) Test
The Taste And Flavour(Flavor) Test | Source

Go to your fridge get your volunteer to close their eyes and pinch their nose. Now take a piece of food from the fridge and put it in their mouth. A strawberry or a piece of banana is ideal to start. Ask them what they think it is? Try it with a few different types and varieties of food. Make sure they keep their nose pinched and eyes closed.

OK, now they can stop pinching the nose and try the foods again. Yep, this time they are much more likely to get it right!

So we have established that our sense of smell, which can pick up and work out so many more details compared to our taste buds alone, plays a big big part in the flavour of our food. That's why when we have a cold and our noses' are blocked we say we can't taste our food. The other senses play a part in flavour too. The moment we see the colour and shape of a piece of food, our brain is processing to see if we recognise it, and remember what it tasted like, before we even put it into our mouths. All these signals come into play and then when we finally place the food into our mouths, BOOM, all the little pieces come together and we have theflavour.

Flavour will be a slightly different experience from person to person. For example, I might use my sense of smell slightly more, compared to my other senses, for a certain piece of food, whereas you might use your eyes more. The experience of flavour will be slightly different for both of us. I believe that our memories and thoughts play a big part too. Perhaps strawberries conjure up memories of a warm summer. sweet juicy happiness. Or perhaps the British classic fish and chips, which has a smell of vinegar and paper, that we probably don't even really notice, and it makes us think of the sea and gulls squawking. Each person has their own memories associated with food.

Candy floss is basically just sugar, however the sounds, lights and drama that are often around when we buy our first candy floss at the fun fair, make for an exciting memory of a sweet taste from a young age. This is a typical experience of flavour for many young people. Fruit we picked from trees as children seemed to be so much better. They probally were better as they would have been warmed and ripened by the sun to bring out the natural sweetness. That's why fruit from the fridge does not usually taste as good as warm fruit.

All our sense`s working together for that flavour


The difference between taste and flavour.

People often say that as we grow older our tastes change. Of course as we go through life we come across different and new flavours and smells, and we decide whether or not we like them. Can we improve our sense of taste and flavour? Yes we certainly can! It's all about knowledge and remembering all the different factors that make up flavour. In the kitchen we spend so much time around ingredients, taking in their smells, textures and colours. So much so that they become imprinted in our brains and can be used to come up with different flavour combinations to make great food. When you are next eating just try taking in the smells textures and feelings as you eat. Most of us do not do that, we just chew and swallow, and many of us eat in front of the telly and don't even really notice what we are eating at all! And we miss out on an amazing experience. You will be surprised what you can pick up on when you practice mindful eating and really enjoy your food!

I have come across so many people in the catering trade and I will suggest that they try an ingredient or dish. Sometimes they say 'no, I don't like it!'. What don't you like about it I ask? The reply comes that they have never actually tried it, but they say they know they won't like it! Go on, try it I say. They do, and then they say 'Oh that's quite nice! Can I try a bit more?'

So expand your knowledge and broaden your experiences of flavour by trying new things.


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    • charlie cheesman profile image

      charlie cheesman 3 years ago from England

      Thank you grand old lady.

    • charlie cheesman profile image

      charlie cheesman 3 years ago from England

      Thank you grand old lady.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      This is a wonderful article. Eating is something we do every day, but eating mindfully is something we can do to truly get the most of our every meal we have. The distinction between taste and flavor is very helpful. And although I often heard of the term umami, it is nice to learn what it really means and its history as the fifth taste. Great hub, voted up.

    • charlie cheesman profile image

      charlie cheesman 3 years ago from England

      Hi loz

      Interesting thanks. So is this the same for Sea salt?

      I find the salt you find in shops as table salt seems very different to rock or sea salt.

      Also you mentioned sodium was explosive, Is chlorine explosive too?

      Sodium bicarbonate seems very active when mixed with water too.

      Anyway thanks I will edit this now thanks.

    • profile image

      Loz 3 years ago

      "Salt is the chemical sodium"

      No it isn't. I'm sorry, this is a bug-bear of mine.

      It is sodium-chloride. That is sodium and chlorine combined into one molecule. Sodium is explosive when combined with water, and chlorine is highly poisonous, but salt is vital if we want to survive, and not just because it's a mineral - so is your dinner plate! Salt is broken down into ion in your body and used to make your neurons work.

      (Actually salt is a more general term in chemistry, but in cooking we pretty much always mean sodium chloride.)

    • charlie cheesman profile image

      charlie cheesman 3 years ago from England

      Hi Ah yes Chillies. They can be sweet,bitter ect, But I think you mean the heat. Well

      The main chemical in chillies is Capsaicin, The active irritant in chilies that causes the burning sensation.

      This is not a taste or flavour.

      The capsaicin chemical in actual fact causes heat (piquancy), Which then results in our central nervous system releasing endorphins, producing a pleasurable sensation in the body.

      This is the reason that eating a hot chilli or curry is enjoyable to many people.

    • profile image

      Anonymous 3 years ago

      What about the taste of Chillies?

    • cmoneyspinner1tf profile image

      Treathyl FOX 4 years ago from Austin, Texas

      I scooped this.

    • The Rat RaceRebel profile image

      Shelly Begarowicz 4 years ago from Up-North, MI

      Very cool, I had no idea there was a difference between taste and flavor. I'd always thought they were just two words that meant basically the same thing. My daughter and I are going to try your test and see if we can fool each other. It sounds fun and as I homeschool her it will be interesting where this leads.

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 4 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      This is a fascinating look into tastes and flavors. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • Aplethora23 profile image

      AngPow 4 years ago from North Cali

      This was interesting. Taste and Flavor. And a new earthy flavor too. Thank you for this informative article. Voted up.

    • charlie cheesman profile image

      charlie cheesman 4 years ago from England

      Hi suzie yeah its stuart, Thanks for visiting I am enjoying writing on here, Its nice that people like what i write about,

    • charlie cheesman profile image

      charlie cheesman 4 years ago from England

      Thank you claudia, you are right meals should be something we look forward too every day,

    • charlie cheesman profile image

      charlie cheesman 4 years ago from England

      Thank you claudia, you are right meals should be something we look forward too every day,

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi charlie(apologies, you told me your christian name and I have forgotten!! old age!!)

      This is a really well put together hub that a true chef would write, in my opinion! I loved the examples and ho you made it easy to distinguish between flavour and taste. Must do the nose test with my partner, it is a cool way to explain the difference. Nice job, up, useful, interesting & shared!

    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 4 years ago from Mexico

      Interesting Hub, now I know how flavor is the whole encompassing experience that makes food such a treasure in my life :). I totally agree with you in that there is a lot of pleasure in food and expanding our repertoire by trying new things is really exciting. I will never understand people who just eat whatever and don´t really pay much attention to food; my meals are always highlights in my day!!!

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 4 years ago from Germany

      Welcome to HubPages too, Charlie. Thanks for sharing this very interesting hub. Enjoy hubbing. I want to read more from you.

    • Elias Zanetti profile image

      Elias Zanetti 4 years ago from Athens, Greece

      Welcome to HubPages Charlie.