Eli5: Why do Adults generally enjoy bitter tasting things (ie. Coffee, beer, dark chocolate) when children rarely do?



Eli5: Why do Adults generally enjoy bitter tasting things (ie. Coffee, beer, dark chocolate) when children rarely do?

In: Other

A lot of it comes down to what your body / mind associate with the food. Your subjective experience is more than just the raw data that your taste buds is sending to your brain. If you’re an adult who drinks coffee, your mind associates the taste of coffee with the boost in energy you get from the caffeine. If you drink beer or liquor, your body associates those tastes with the pleasurable feeling the alcohol they contain gives you. If you tried coffee or alcohol as a kid, or if you can remember the first time you tried either, you probably didn’t like it. Your body didn’t have the association with the taste / smells and the experience they cause. That’s why beer, liquor and coffee are usually “acquired tastes”.

*I don’t know if the same effect applies to other bitter things like dark chocolate as they don’t have a pleasurable effect associated with them. That’s probably for a different reason.

Edit: spelling, added * note

After you stop growing around your 20’s, your taste buds start decreasing. You lose taste buds as well as the sense of taste ( this taking place over decades) making bitter stuff not as nasty. Young taste buds love sweet things.

Of course everyone is different and there are always abnormalities.

Okay, but there’s an actual reason these other comments don’t address.

Children are more sensitive to bitter tastes. We know this, and there’s a few theories about why. The most popular is that it stops kids from being poisoned, because bitter plants are more likely to be poisonous (coffee, for instance, is mildly poisonous).

As you get older, this effect diminishes (probably because evolution didn’t select for it after a certain point in life), and some people begin to enjoy (and most people tolerate) bitter tastes.

This is just what I’ve read on the internet, do not use this comment as an authoritative source.

Children are wired to like sweet things, because many sweet things in nature are high-calorie, and before we had agriculture, we needed to focus on finding calorie-dense foods. This is also part of why we developed the range of color vision we have, to find fruits and other foods.
Many naturally occurring poisons have a bitter taste, so it is advantageous to evolve an aversion to them. As we get older, this is less important, as we learn what is safe to eat and what isn’t, and we also gain a learned appreciation for more complex flavors.

Between your unconscious self becoming less averse to these flavors, and your conscious self becoming more familiar with them, you can develop an appreciation for something you might have previously considered gross.

Children aren’t very smart, and in the wild they might eat poisonous or rotten things without knowing not to. Children are sensitive to these flavors of bitter and rot so that they stay safe.

Adults have an easier time overriding the disgust, and it’s less important that an adult have that instinct, because they’d know not to eat rotten food.

This is why most kids don’t like beer. It tastes like something rotten (old hops) and your brain tells you not to drink it.