Does Our Age Affect The Perception Of Coffee Flavors?

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The Perception Of Coffee Flavors

The Perception Of Coffee Flavors: There are many variables that influence the way we perceive flavors in coffee, such as brewing temperature, water quality, and even altitude . Also, we know that it takes a well-developed palate to detect the nuances of tasting notes. To develop your palate it is necessary to try a range of coffees of different origins, varieties and processing methods.The way in which professionals in the sector normally taste and evaluate coffees is through tastings; However, when tasting and rating coffees, the possible influence of age is often overlooked.

It is proven that as we age our senses of smell and taste change temporarily (or even permanently), which undoubtedly influences our perception of the flavor of coffee.This brings us to an important question: should we take age differences into account when tasting and scoring coffees?To find out, I spoke with Gary Au, co-founder of Urban Coffee Roasters in Hong Kong, and Nick Castellano, product marketing specialist at Cropster . Keep reading and find out what they told me.

Does our palate change coffee flavor with age?

As we age, our senses begin to deteriorate, although at different rates depending on a number of factors, such as existing health conditions and accessibility to medical care,Perception of coffee flavors for example.Most people think of hearing and vision loss when talking about aging, but it is proven that our senses of smell and taste also decline.

A 2006 study, for example, revealed that smell and taste begin to deteriorate around age 60 . Furthermore, from the age of 70, there is a severe loss of both senses, meaning that our ability to distinguish flavors degrades.Perception of coffee flavors

This is thought to be the result of a decrease in the number of olfactory receptors in the nasal cavity, which we use to recognize aromas and which are also important for flavor perception. Furthermore, as we age, the rate of regeneration of receptor cells decreases, so our senses of smell and taste lose their acuity.

In contrast, children’s sense of smell and taste are extremely sensitive, especially to sweet and salty flavors. A 2005 study from the Monell Chemical Senses Center found that newborns have an easier time detecting sweeter tastes and often prefer them to non-sweet tastes.

Studies show, however, that sometime between adolescence and adulthood our palates begin to develop more. This is largely a result of trying different foods and meals, exposing us to a wider variety of flavors and textures. In turn, we become more accustomed to the five types of flavors: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami .

What about unconventional flavor notes?

In simple terms, there are five main aspects that make up a coffee’s sensory profile: acidity, sweetness, bitterness, body and aftertaste. Along with these aspects, we can also talk about specific tasting notes.

Many industry professionals use the Specialty Coffee Association’s Flavor Wheel to identify specific characteristics and flavors in coffee; However, it is quite criticized,Perception of coffee flavors mainly because it is considered to be more oriented towards European and North American palates than to those of the producing countries.Coffee Flavors

The wheel was first published in 1995 and has since been updated to include a more diverse vocabulary with 110 flavor, texture and aroma characteristics. For example, the fruity category is made up of four subcategories, which in turn contain a minimum of two subcategories, including raisin, cherry, coconut and lemon, to name a few.

We are used to reading notes of chocolate, caramel, nuts and fruits on coffee packaging; However, in recent years, there has been a growing number of specialized roasters that use less conventional flavor notes.

As individuals age, their sensory abilities, including smell and taste, graduCoffee Flavorsally decline, impacting their perception of flavors, such as those found in coffee. This deterioration varies among individuals and is influenced by factors like health conditions and access to healthcare. Traditionally, aging is associated with hearing and vision loss, yet studies have demonstrated that olfactory and gustatory senses also diminish over time.

Research from 2006 highlighted that the decline in smell and taste typically starts around the age of 60, with a significant reduction observed by age 70. This diminishes the ability to distinguish various flavors, attributed to a decrease in olfactory receptors within the nasal cavity crucial for aroma recognition and flavor perception. Moreover, aging slows down the regeneration of these receptor cells, further dulling the senses of smell and taste.

In contrast, children exhibit highly sensitive smell and taste senses, particularly towards sweet and salty flavors. A study by the Monell Chemical Senses Center in 2005 discovered that newborns are more attuned to sweet tastes, showing a preference for them over non-sweet flavors.

However, as individuals transition from adolescence to adulthood, their taste palettes evolve, becoming more sophisticated. This development results from experiencing a diverse range of foods and flavors, enabling adults to appreciate the five basic tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami.

Why are coffee flavor notes becoming more distinctive?

In many specialty coffee shops around the world, it is not uncommon to see quite unique flavor notes. For example, some of the 2021 World Barista Championship finalists used terms like “cake batter,” “melted chocolate ice cream,” and “banana custard” to describe the flavors of their coffees.

While Gary believes this is largely a result of using more unique coffee species and varieties, as well as experimental processing techniques , Nick believes it is also due to the influence of younger generations.

“Generally speaking, I think young people are more inclined to try [these types of coffees], like new or crazy fermented coffees that have unique and interesting flavors,” he says. “In my opinion, it also helps people who are new to specialty coffee become more interested.”

Gary agrees, saying, “In my experience, people new to specialty coffee tend to prefer new and interesting flavors, and are often able to distinguish the flavor notes described on the package.”

Should we take into account generational differences when tasting coffee?

Research shows that as we age, it is more difficult to perceive the full spectrum of flavors in a coffee. This is, without a doubt, very important when it comes to tasting and scoring it.

Gary and Nick attended the Best of Panama 2022 (BoP) auction, where age made a clear difference in the scoring of the coffees.Perception of coffee flavors It is important to note that all judges at the auction were experienced tasters and Q-graders .

After the judges’ calibration session, a certain discrepancy could be observed between the scores given to the coffees. Typically, there is a difference of one or two points between the judges’ scores for the same coffee but in the BoP 2022 auction,Perception of coffee flavors the difference reached up to five or six points in some cases.

Additionally, Gary and Nick said that one of the coffees received 100 points from two judges, which is quite unusual for this auction.

“In my opinion, it was because older tasters favored traditional Geisha flavor profiles, which are more floral and delicate,” says Nick. “Younger tasters gravitated toward more complex coffees.Perception of coffee flavors” Gary, meanwhile, believes that level of tasting experience and cultural background explain the discrepancies in scores.

What does this mean for the tasting protocol?

Although age may have influenced cupping scores at the 2022 BoP auction,Perception of coffee flavors both Nick and Gary agree that level of cupping experience was the most decisive factor.

Additionally, in his experience as a judge, Gary has found that people from Southeast Asia or the Middle East generally prefer more fermented and winey flavor notes in their coffee. North Americans and Europeans tend to favor more traditional flavor profiles, which can be attributed to cultural differences in cooking.Coffee Flavors

Nick believes it is also important to understand the influence that differences in international or regional markets have on flavor preferences.“For example, in Chile, the specialty coffee market in Santiago is more developed than that in Buenos Aires, Argentina, so the market for unique coffees is more extensive there,” he says.Perception of coffee flavors

The SCA describes this cupping bias as intersubjectivity, which is when professional cuppers evaluate coffee quality based on what characteristics are desirable for a specific market, rather than scoring a coffee objectively.

As a result, the SCA began developing its Coffee Value Assessment System, which seeks to eradicate any type of intentional or unintentional bias at the time of cupping,Perception of coffee flavors as well as be more inclusive of different cultures and cuisines.

While it is true that age plays an important role in how we perceive the taste of coffee,Perception of coffee flavors we also have to consider other factors, such as experience and cultural differences.Perception of coffee flavors

Whether intentional or not, bias is inevitable in evaluating coffee quality and flavor; However, as more and more experimental processing techniques and new varieties and species become available,Perception of coffee flavors it is clear that the flavor spectrum of coffee will continue to expand.