The Science of Taste

At DaVinci Gourmet, we live and breathe flavor. To us, creating great taste is an art and a science. Luckily, as a part of the Kerry family, we have access to some of the best food and flavoring scientists, culinary and beverage sensory experts, and flavoring research and development professionals in the world.

DaVinci Gourmet® syrups and flavorings provide beverage enthusiasts with an endless number of ways to experience flavor. The reason we created so many options is simple—to accommodate a world with widely diverse tastes.

The Tastes of a Tongue

A taste bud isn’t simply a taste bud. Each one senses a specific type of taste based on its location on the tongue. The far north (back of the tongue) is the bitter zone, the far south (tip of the tongue) is the sweet zone, the east and west (the center of the tongue’s edges) is the sour zone, and salty will claim just about anywhere.

So why do we have different tastes? One explanation may be genes. Based on this scientific theory, what you like (and don’t like) may be genetically predetermined. Another explanation comes down to numbers—the more taste buds you have, the more sensitive your tongue is to taste.

The three taster types—

  • Nontasters. Those with the least number of taste buds are least sensitive to strong tastes, such as bitter or spicy, and alcohol. When it comes to sweets, a nontaster might sense half the sweetness of a dessert a supertaster considers very sweet.
  • Medium tasters. Also known as average tasters, this group makes up approximately half of the American population.
  • Supertasters. Particularly sensitive to how foods taste, especially bitter and sweet foods, supertasters are also sensitive to fats and how they feel in the mouth, as well as the “heat” of spicy foods. Studies have shown that the majority supertasters are women.

Want to Test Your “Tasteability?”

Dr. Linda Bartoshuk of the Yale University School of Medicine recommends a simple test for answering this question—tasting potassium chloride (a salt substitute) and saccharin. A supertaster will taste bitterness in both while a nontaster will not taste bitterness in either.

Sweet Surrender

The love of sugar has always been universal. Taste receptors, developed before birth, have been shown to be receptive to sugar and sweetness even in the womb.

Sweetness is also an important component for sustaining life. Glucose, the body’s most important sugar molecule, is the only energy source that can be utilized by the brain.

Increasing the temperature of milk (by steaming for example) has the effect of increasing the solubility of lactose, which increases the perceived sweetness on the tongue. There is a temperature sweet spot for tasting the sweetness inherent in steamed milk. Most professionals agree that range is between 135 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Early on, using Brix scientific analysis methods as a means for measuring sugars, we evaluated our line of DaVinci Gourmet syrups. It was decided then that we would rely purely on the quality of our ingredients to deliver a positive flavor experience instead of using sweetness to mask bitter ingredients. That’s why you’ll notice a truer-to-flavor experience with our syrups and flavorings.

In fact, in a national head-to-head blind taste test, DaVinci Gourmet Madagascar Vanilla Syrup was chosen as the #1 best tasting over Monin and Torani.*
*Tested in lattes against Monin Madagascar Vanilla and Torani Vanilla syrups.

The Science Behind the Great Taste of DaVinci Gourmet

Flavorings and Milk

If you’ve ever experienced the curdling of milk after adding a fruit flavor to a beverage and wondered why this happens, a pH imbalance may be the culprit. It’s an issue many beverage-makers and companies struggle with but, with our resources and expertise, we were able to find a solution.
DaVinci Gourmet is fortunate to have access to a large International Research and Development team of experts across culinary, enzymes, flavors, emulsifiers, and other categories. Thanks to this R&D team, we achieved the perfect pH balance in our Raspberry Syrup so that it performs in hot or cold 2% milk. But we didn’t stop there. We also conducted multiple recipe blind taste tests with panelists to perfect the flavor balance, both visually and regarding taste. This level of commitment is applied to every syrup and flavoring in the DaVinci Gourmet family.

Cold Drink Flavorings

In chemistry, heat is a common step to create reactions and forming compounds. So naturally, it can be challenging to mix cold ingredients and see the right texture, solubility, acidity, and flavor. Focusing on flavoring drinks like iced teas, Italian sodas and lemonades, DaVinci Gourmet put its R&D team to the test in the development of the Fruit Innovations line—specifically formulated to perform in cold temperature applications. See just how rewarding science can be by adding it to your cold beverage concoctions.

Taste Integrity

One of the benefits of using DaVinci Gourmet syrups and flavorings in beverages is a pure flavor experience. For example a vanilla latte will taste more like coffee, cream, and vanilla while maintaining its flavor integrity. DaVinci Gourmet Beverage Product Specialist and former café owner Levi Andersen puts it this way:
“I always thought I didn’t like hazelnuts. I was used to hazelnut syrups that first tasted sweet, then nutty, then bitter, then metallic. But when I discovered the clean taste of the DaVinci Gourmet Single Origin Turkish Hazelnut syrup, I was blown away. The flavor is so clear. In a latte, it’s not overpowering and doesn’t fade or change to a chemical taste at the end.”
Levi Andersen, Kerry Beverage Product Specialist

Whether you’re a skilled barista like Levi, a restaurateur, a consumer of café-style specialty beverages, or a creative home chef, you can rely upon DaVinci Gourmet to bring you the very best in syrups and flavorings. Inspired by our scientific and research and development expertise, we continue working to delight the tastes of our varied customers with delicious products.

Have a question or challenge for our flavor scientists? Let us know.