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UmamiUnlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste$
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Ole Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbæk

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231168908

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231168908.001.0001

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What exactly is taste, and why is it important?

What exactly is taste, and why is it important?

(p.1) What exactly is taste, and why is it important?

Ole G. Mouritsen

Klavs Styrbæk

Jonas Drotner Mouritsen

, Mariela Johansen
Columbia University Press

This chapter explains what exactly is meant by taste and why it is important. For many centuries, it was customary in the Western world to accept the ancient Greek view, originating with Aristotle, that there were seven basic tastes: sour, sweet, salty, bitter, astringent (causing dryness), pungent (or spicy), and harsh. Over time, people came to the conclusion that there were actually no more than four true basic tastes: sour, sweet, salty, and bitter. In many countries in Asia, however, people have thought that in addition to these four basic tastes, there is a fifth one—which turns out to be umami. This chapter first explains why we need to be able to taste our food before discussing sensory science, taste, smell, aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, texture, and chemesthesis. It then considers whether there is a taste map of the tongue, why some foods are more palatable than others, and glutamic acid and glutamate in our food.

Keywords:   taste, sour, sweet, salty, bitter, umami, food, sensory science, tongue, glutamate

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