18th
Mar
2015

Posted in Kafevend Blog

Readers of the blog who've been around for a while might be able to recall this one, where we took a look at a study that was examining the effect of colour on perceived taste. In the study, volunteers tried hot chocolate from white, red, cream, and orange coloured cups. Despite it being the same hot chocolate served each time, the volunteers' responses showed a change in perceived taste depending on the cup. Both the cream and orange cups were preferred over the white and red, but also for different reasons. The cream cup apparently made it sweeter, whilst the orange cup made the overall taste more intense.

A more recent study has also looked into colour's effect on our perception of coffee- latte, in this case. The study was based on a conversation one of the researchers had with a barista, who had said that coffee served in a white cup tasted more bitter than if it was served in a glass (transparent) cup. The study used three cups: white, blue and glass. The blue cup was added in order to test the effects of simultaneous contrast on the perceived bitterness, as they proposed that it was the brown colour of coffee that was being associated with bitterness, or negatively associated with sweetness.

In the first test, coffee in the white cup was perceived as having a signifcantly more intense flavour than that in the glass. Whilst the blue cup was also rated more intense than the glass, there was no simultaneous contrast effect. The second test also showed that the perceived sweetness was significantly higher in the glass and blue cup compared to the white cup.

As ever, whilst further studies with larger test groups need to be carried out, these early experiments do seem to show that colour can have a big effect on how we perceive taste, even when the drink in question is the same each time. This is pretty big news then for those in the business of selling these drinks- crockery matters! Of course, colour has long been known to evoke certain emotions or  thoughts and has been used in marketing to exploit these reactions. The researchers from the second study provided good examples in Heinz and Cadbury, who use colour contrast to enhance products. Heinz use turqoise to enhance their red/orange baked beans, while Cadbury use purple to enhance their brown chocolate.

Having put our thinking caps on, we here at the Kafevend blog would be very interested to know how the colour on the inside of a mug affects the perceived taste of a drink, and also how the inner and outer colours of a cup function- does one work over the other, can they be used to provide multiple desired taste enhancements?... It certainly seems that there are still plenty of avenues for discovery. Perhaps someone could start with how different colours affect the perceived taste of tea!

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