December 19, 2008
Are you a supertaster?

Want to find out your potential for being a discerning epicure? Some of it may be beyond your control.

Sure, you can study and go to tastings and do all the homework you want, but you might just be among those called "non-tasters" - those with fewer taste buds blanketing the surface of your tongue.

On the other hand, you may be a supertaster - lots of buds, or papillae, on the tongue. That can be a great thing, but it can also be a burden. Some supertasters find bitter and spicy dishes overwhelming.

Apparently, about 25 percent of the population is composed of supertasters. About half of us are normal tasters and the rest are what's known as non-tasters (have trouble distinguishing most flavors they eat).

How can you tell? There's a simple test. Here's the explanation I got from the Good Housekeeping Web site.

If the thought of veggies makes you cringe, you may be. Around one in every four people are born with thousands of extra taste buds, which enable them to more acutely detect sweetness, sourness, and bitterness in foods. Think you fit in this category? Try this test (it's a little odd, yes, but experts stand by it):

What you'll need: A hole punch, a one-inch-square piece of waxed paper, blue food coloring, and a cotton swab.

What to do: Punch a hole in the waxed paper; set it aside. Dab a little blue food coloring on your tongue. It should turn blue, with the exception of tiny pink circles. (These are "fungiform papillae," and each contains six to 15 taste buds.) Place the waxed paper over the blue area of your tongue and count the pink circles in the hole that you punched out. More than 25 circles? You're a supertaster.

If you're really serious, you can get a more specific test using filter papers that have a harmless chemical that only supertasters can taste. The test costs $4.95.

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