The colour of flavour

With the flourishing of cooking programs on our television screens, the world of the kitchen is before us like never before. Perhaps your life has been forever altered by observing the capacity of slightly overweight people to look intensely serious and contemplative while tasting salmon (an accomplishment previously only lauded when achieved by a one-year-old). At the least the phrase “plating up” has probably seeped into your consciousness. Encased in that phrase is the idea that how you present your food matters, and a new study has confirmed just how powerful the colour of the plate or cup that carries your food can be.

In the study, researchers from the University of Valencia in Spain and the University of Oxford in the UK had people sample a hot chocolate that was served in four differently coloured mugs: white, dark cream, red or orange on the outside (all mugs were white on the inside). After sampling from each mug the participants were asked to rate the hot chocolate, giving it a score between one and 10 for enjoyment, sweetness, flavour and aroma.

For a start, white mugs scored significantly worse than any other colour.

As far as flavour went, orange and cream coloured mugs were rated significantly higher than red or white. The cream cup also scored slightly higher than orange on sweetness and aroma. All in all though, cream and orange mugs resulted in the chocolate contained in them being perceived as more enjoyable.

Other studies support this phenomenon. Strawberry mousse served on a white plate tastes sweeter than when it is served on a black plate. Lemon drinks served in yellow cans are perceived as tasting better.

Taste is more than an event on your taste buds, it is a full sensory experience. Do your own experiments and you will find it to be true. It remains to be seen though whether there is a colour of plate that will make brussels sprouts taste delicious to children.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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