Taste is something that makes its way into our lives every single day. For all of us at PROPERCORN, it is the cornerstone of our company, and the reason we do what we do – we love food, flavours and taste.
You might experience taste as an element of your food which, when combined with texture and appearance, determines whether you like it or not. Conversely, you might explore taste as a complex collaboration of top notes, basic tastes, and flavours (if you are a food obsessive or it happens to be your job). At PROPERCORN HQ, we test every single batch that comes through production, to make sure that each pack tastes exactly how it should. In an effort to shed some light on what goes into our popcorn, and how we conjure up each flavour, we’ve decided to we’ve decided to go right back to basics, and break down what really makes taste.
Our sense of flavour is dependent on the 5 basic tastes: Sweet, Salt, Sour, Bitter and Umami (which means delicious in Japanese). Like primary colours, the basic tastes cannot be replicated by mixing together any other flavours.
Our taste buds are made up of thousands of receptors which allow them to differentiate between the five basic tastes:
Sweetness is usually associated with pleasure – which is one reason we associate sugary foods with happiness. Balanced with the right ingredients, it enhances the taste sensation and can bring roundness to the flavour of naturally sour ingredients.
We are most receiptive to saltiness, as sodium ions are found in a vast range of different foods. Saltiness enhances any ingredient it is paired with. It is most commonly found as a raw ingredient, but capers, pickles and olives all have salty tastes. It is the polar opposite to sweet, so adding too much salt to a sweet flavour, will sweeten the taste sensation.
Dark chocolate, raw berries, coffee beans, broccoli and citrusy zests, like orange peel are all examples of bitter tastes. Our tongues are most sensitive to bitter flavours and any food too bitter, will make people wince. Bitter foods work really well when balanced with sweet or aromatic flavours. If a recipe is too sweet, bitter flavours can be added to help bring the overall flavour back into balance.
Sourness is a sense of acidity. Like bitter flavours, Sourness is only tolerable in small amounts. Combining low amounts of sour flavours with sweet or spicy can help cut through and provide more balance by softening the intensity of the flavour.
Umami is the moreish savoury taste that makes the tongue salivate. Ripe tomatoes, soy sauce, Marmite, mushrooms and asparagus are all rich, savoury umami tastes.
When it comes to our popcorn, we try and create unique flavours that contain a combination of different tastes. Each batch of corn is popped in big pans or kettles, before getting sieved and tumbled through a light mist of rapeseed oil and seasoning. The oil enhances their taste and ensures that our seasonings carry flavour straight to the palate.
Now it’s your turn to create a flavour that really hits the spot. Which taste do you want to see on shelf? Visit the Institute of Flavour to learn more.