I have friends who can take a good-sized bite out of a raw jalapeno, chew it, and enjoy it. If I tried that, I would turn fire engine red, sweat profusely, and smoke would seep from my ears. I like jalapeno, but can tolerate only small amounts.
I was reminded of differences in taste when my family was experimenting with different strengths of dark chocolate bars, starting with 65% cacao, then 70%, 72%, 86%, and finally 100%. I enjoyed all of it except for 100% (which is made for cooking).
On the other hand, Mrs. Parker and my daughter had to spit all of it out, and my daughter wiped her tongue with a paper towel hoping it would rid her of the taste. "Repulsion" comes to mind.
Dark chocolates tend to have chocolate listed as the first ingredient, as either chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, or semi-sweet chocolate. Generally, dark chocolates have 60 to 75% of total calories derived from fat. As the cacao and fat percentages rises, you often see less sugar contributing to total calories in a serving. And the bitterness factor rises, thanks to polyphenols. Bitter, acrid, pungent - it’s all the same to me. Sugar and fat counteract the bitterness.
The heat of a jalapeno and the bitterness of dark chocolate are detected by different taste receptors on our tongues.
The best-known bitterness receptor detects the chemical called PROP (6-n-propylthiouracil). One fourth of us can’t taste it; half of us are moderate tasters; one fourth of us are supertasters. Supertasters can detect PROP in minute concentrations undetectable to others and find it repulsive.
But PROP receptors are not the only bitterness detector. So far, about 25 have been identified from human genome sequences. For example, PTC (phenylthiocarbamide) is another bitter chemical taste controlled by genetics.
ScienceDaily on Feb. 5, 2001, reported on a study in women that found no difference from PROP tasters and non-tasters in evaluation or enjoyment of white, bittersweet, or bitter chocolate. Researchers noted that fat and sugar counteract bitterness.
Nevertheless, I suspect my wife’s and daughter’s strong aversion to dark chocolate is genetic rather than a simple preference or “I can take it or leave it” attitude. Must be in one of those 24 other bitter-detection genes.
What do you think?