18th
Aug
2016

Posted in Kafevend Blog

Coffee synaesthesia


It's not just Rio that's experiencing a surge of visitor numbers as it hosts the Games of the 31st Olympiad, it's that time of year when Edinburgh is packed to the rafters as it hosts its annual International Festival, Festival Fringe and Royal Military Tattoo. That's not all though; had you heard there's an Edinburgh Coffee Fringe taking place throughout August? Let's find out a little more...

The Coffee Fringe


A number of Edinburgh's best independent coffee houses are currently taking their turn at hosting some of the UK's and Europe's leading speciality coffee experts, with opportunities for the public to take part in tastings and discover more about their favourite drink. The Coffee Fringe won't be the end of the Scottish capital's homage to coffee either. Coffee aficionados can look forward to a wholly coffee focussed festival on Saturday 1st October, following the success of the very first Edinburgh Coffee Festival last year. One of the stands at the inaugural event decided to run an experiment that linked coffee and sound. It's an interesting idea and worth some blog space, so over to our second subject for today!

Listen with coffee


The first sense we tend to think of when it comes to any type of food or drink is, of course, taste. Next up would be smell; in fact as we've previously discovered on the blog, our sense of smell is absolutely key to our ability to experience a full range of flavours and explains why everything tastes so bland when we suffer a cold. Visual presentation is another aspect that baristas attend to; just think latte art. Meanwhile, texture and mouthfeel are another component in our experience of food and drink. Our sense of hearing, on the other hand, isn't generally something we'd expect to influence our perception of taste.

Roast Central gave visitors to their festival stand coffee accompanied by a choice of different pieces of music. People's taste perceptions were then recorded and analysed to see if the type of music brought out different notes in the coffee. The outcome appears to have been less newsworthy than the concept itself, but we can guess at the general results on the basis of other research conducted along the same lines...

Some foods, like coffee, wine or dark chocolate for example, contain contrasting notes within their overall flavour. Expert tasters can pick out these different notes and try to describe them to us with effusive words, but what if listening to differently pitched sounds could help us on our way to getting more out of the complexity of the taste experience for ourselves? A study by Charles Spence has shown that we're more apt to pick out the sweeter notes when listening to higher-pitched sounds, while on the flip side of the coin listening to lower-pitched sound makes us more aware of the bitter notes. Having conducted his initial experiments in the lab, he teamed up with a London restaurant where they produced a bittersweet toffee. Customers dialled a number and chose either a high or low pitched sound to listen to as they ate the toffee. Have a go yourself via this link; it will work better with headphones. And next time you find your coffee too bitter, reach for a high pitched sound instead of the sugar!


References:

Edinburgh Coffee Festival
Effect of sound on coffee

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