Daily Smart Fact

Your daily dose of smart. So you don't feel so dumb.

Daily Smart Fact #29: Why Coffee Always Smells Better Than It Tastes

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coffeeKey Takeaway: Humans have two senses of smell. One sense is when we inhale and the other is when “the air comes out of you up the nasal passage and is breathed out through the nose.” The receptors in our nose react to odors differently depending on which direction they are moving in.

I’m a coffee lover. More for the morning routine and warm fuzzies I associate coffee with than the actual taste (or the much-needed jolt of caffeine to avoid the afternoon slump).  But I have always found it odd that coffee smells so much better than the actual, somewhat bitter, taste.  I recently learned that we have two senses of smell (source).  “One sense is when you inhale things from the environment into you, and the other is when the air comes out of you up the nasal passage and is breathed out through the nose.”

The info from this second, “retronasal” smell (the air going back up the nasal passage) is sent to a different part of the brain then our first sense of smell, causing the brain to interpret the information differently.  In the case of coffee, the initial smell is interpreted waaay better than the retronasal smell – and we taste coffee less deliciously than how we smell it.

But, take stinky cheeses.  In the case of smells-like-the-inside-of-a-butt cheese, the taste is usually much milder and therefore much more delicious, than the smell.  This is also due to the second, retronasal smell.

Turns out, chocolate and lavender are the only two known aromas that smell exactly the same for both smells.  If you’ve never eaten lavender but have always wondered how it tastes, now you know!  It tastes just as it smells…and that’s a good thing.

Bon apetit!

Written by Bea

June 16, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Food

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