The Tale of Taste Buds

Taste buds were first detected in the nineteenth century by two German scientists, Georg Meissner and Rudolf Wagner. We now know that these buds- which are shaped like onions- each contain between fifty and one hundred taste cells. The top of each taste bud has an opening called a taste pore. When we taste something, it’s because chemicals from that food have dissolved in our saliva and then come in contact with the taste cells by slipping through the taste pores. Taste buds, incidentally, can be found not only on the tongue, but on the soft palate, pharynx, larynx, and epiglottis as well.

Taste reserch in the 1980s and 1990s suggests that some super tasters may experience bitter compounds, such as caffeine, or sweet compounds, such as sucrose, more intensely than other individuals. However, the effect is greatest when small, localised areas of the tongue are stimulated. Interestingly and inexplicably, when the whole mouth is stimulated (as would be the case in drinking a glass of wine), individuals- regardless of the acuity of their taste sensitivity- experience many stimuli the same way. 



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