Are there really five dimensions to taste?


You sometimes hear that taste has five dimensions (salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami). What does that really mean? Are these dimensions in the traditional sense?

When I think of dimensions, I think of how any possible “thing” can be described as a combination of the dimensions. For example, any point in a cartesian plane can be assigned X and Y, and any color can be described using a combination of red, green, and blue.

Does that mean any taste in the world can be described as a combination of these five dimensions? For example, can a mango, a Kit Kat, a tortilla, and milk all be uniquely described as a combination of salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami and nothing else?

In: Biology

In cooking, yes, pretty much everything is some combination of those tastes. Dimensions is an old, mislabeled word. The word now used often is centers, but even that is misleading as your entire toungue tastes all the favors and there are no “taste centers”

Your tongue has 5 kinds of taste bud sensors. One for each of the 5 tastes. It doesn’t matter what you call it dimensions facets whatever. Salt tastes salty because it chemically activates the salt tastebuds. Bitter for bitter, sour for sour, etc

In addition to taste, we also sense texture, temperature, smell of a food. That’s why a kitkat tastes different than a chocolate bar. The texture is different. That’s why chocolate bar tastes different than a hot chocolate, the temp and smell is different.

Keep in mind that a very large portion of what you ‘taste’ if due to your sense of smell, which adds a great amount of complexity to the taste. That’s why nothing tastes good if you have a cold or your sinuses are blocked.

There are, more or less, 5 distinct types of taste receptors…sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami (savory). But “taste” is more than just taste receptors, it also includes smell (which includes an _enormous_ number of different sensations) as a vitally important core component. Texture and temperature and general “Feel” also play a role in the overall experience of eating.

I’m trying to find a good example with other senses, but the overall point is that while we talk about specifically the five tastes as “taste”, in actuality what we experience when we taste food is a combination of senses.