We all know the basic four when it comes to tasting: sweet, salty, sour and bitter. In fact, these four have been the unchallenged quartet since the days of Aristotle and Plato.

To this pantheon has now been added Umami (introduced in the 19th century), which is now generally accepted as the ‘fifth’ taste. Umami can most simply be described as savory, and is often encountered in the world of tasting saké. (Check out the Umami Information Center to learn more).

It is apparently MUCH more complicated than this, however. An article in today’s New York Times now suggests there may be way more than five, for example: “fattiness, soapiness and metallic”. Scientists now not only recognize additional receptors on the palate previously unknown, but also that there may be additional receptors in the intestine. Moreover, the majority of these taste receptors are operating on an unconscious level. This has helped us steer clear of poisonous foods as well as to recognize what is nutritious. Based on these tastes, we are either “thrilled or repulsed”.

It’s a fascinating topic, and humbling to know how little we understand about taste. And now off to breakfast!