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Can your palate be trained or are some just stronger than others?

I may not be using the term palate exactly right, but Im sad to say I think mine was just born weak. I have been a chocophile for over 20 years but I still don't seem to taste ALL of the various nuances and flavors in diff chocolates that most of the chocolate experts and critics describe. I taste some, but not to the degree that many others do...its a bummer. Is this something we can train, like a muscle or sense ( ie. lose your sight and hearing gets better?) and if so, how do I work on this? Any suggestions?

Tags: chocophile, flavors, palate, taste, variety

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This is a fascinating discussion topic, and I'll throw in my two cents for the moment. I think they can be "trained" for instance if you take one chocolate a day, and take some time in each day to have a quiet place where you can concentrate, away from all kinds of odors and distractions. This can be at one of the palate peaks of the day, like 10-11 am or 5-6 pm or maybe even very early in the morning. Make sure your palate is clean with green apple, bread, and /or water, and that you haven't just had a big spicy or strong tasting meal. If you examine a different chocolate every day, carefully tasting and writing down some notes -- maybe even trying a small amount of this same chocolate several times during that day-- soon you will begin to really sense more and more flavors.

There are many tasting games and exercises in Clay's book and Chloe's book and also online, which aim to help you develop and discern different flavors, like comparing side by side and so on. And perhaps others will offer suggestions here also. And important to realize that you will not taste all of the things the "experts" and critics do, and probably not as many notes either, at least not at first. After awhile you will begin to taste more notes, and this heightens your sense of taste gradually with other foods as well. When you really focus on something, you really tune in and appreciate the world of taste.

One other thing is the whole supertaster issue. At this point there are considered to be three kinds of tasters in the world, the normal taster, the non-taster, and the supertaster. Non-taster, pretty bad designation, huh?
But this is all about how many fungiform papillae, which have the taste buds, are on the tongue. If you have fewer than 15 in a 1/4" diameter space on the tongue then you are a non or under taster, 15-30 is normal, and then 30+ is super. But it doesn't mean that if you are a normal or under taster that you cannot develop and learn to taste the nuances of flavor, but you might need to be a bit more persistent and patient. And there is a little test to determine roughly where your tongue falls in this. Read about how to do this here. I have done this cute little test and it seems I'm a supertaster, with over 50. About 25%, and more women than men, are supertasters. 50% normal, and 25% under.

And also there are many not too complex chocolates in the world, so if one eats mainly those then they may not find many flavors there no matter their number of taste buds!
Thank you Casey I appreciate your knowledgable feedback and those are alll excellent suggestions. I will give it a try! Hopefully Im just a normal taster who needs to try harder.....
I found that wine tastings really worked my muscles. Actually, it's not so much about tasting, it's about being able to find what that flavor is.

Guittard has an excellent Tasting Wheel like the ones you get at wine tastings that helps a lot. It's good to refer to it when you're trying to pin down something. I know sometimes I bring up memories like "This reminds me of Eric's barn." but I won't know quite what that means until I figure out that it's hay that I'm tasting.

I'll see if I can find & post the tasting wheel.

I took one of those supertaster tests and thankfully found that I'm a regular taster. (Supertasters have higher incidences of colon cancer.)

However, I have a super sense of smell (in a rather annoying way sometimes).

Some women also find that their sense of smell changes throughout the month, so Casey's suggestion of trying things consistently might help you to find the best time for you.

Most importantly, don't be afraid to enjoy what you enjoy, no matter what the others say.
If anyone is looking for tasting wheels, I have several linked to from my blog How to taste chocolate


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