Sweet food is made sweeter when paired with coffee, according to research on how coffee changes our sense of taste from Aarhus University in Denmark.
Published in the scientific journal Foods, 156 test subjects had their sense of smell and taste tested before and after drinking coffee. The researchers found no changes in their sense of smell, but they found that the sense of taste was affected.
“When people were tested after drinking coffee, they became more sensitive to sweetness, and less sensitive to bitterness,” says Associate Professor at Aarhus University Alexander Wieck Fjældstad, who was involved in carrying out the study.
To rule out the possibility that caffeine in the coffee could be a factor, the researchers repeated the experiment using decaffeinated coffee, which achieved the same result.
“It’s probably some of the bitter substances in the coffee that create this effect,” Alexander says.
“This may explain [why] if you enjoy a piece of dark chocolate with your coffee. It’s taste is much milder, because the bitterness is downplayed and the sweetness is enhanced.”
According to the researcher, the study sheds some light on a new aspect of our knowledge of our senses of smell and taste.
“We already know that our senses have an effect on each other, but it’s a surprise that our registration of sweetness and bitterness is so easily influenced,” Alexander says.
He adds the results maybe provide a better understanding of how people’s tastebuds work, which could prove interesting to people who work in gastronomy, food, and nutrition.
“More research in this area could have significance for how we regulate the way in which we use sugar and sweeteners as food additives. Improved knowledge can potentially be utilised to reduce sugar and calories in our food, which would be beneficial for a number of groups, including those who are overweight and diabetes patients,” Alexander says.
“Single elements in relation to a meal can affect our sensory experience of the subsequent part of the meal. This can both make greater demands on the composition of the food, but can also open up new possibilities and well-functioning compositions.”