When Internet memes about supertasters made the rounds back in 2007, pretty much everybody who liked food wanted to know their supertaster status. But when some of us found out you had to order test strips in bulk, we put it on the back burner.
But wait! You can actually gauge your taster type in a couple of minutes, using regular household supplies. In the ingenious new book Taste What You're Missing: The Passionate Eater's Guide to Why Good Food Tastes Good, author Barb Stuckey conferred with Linda Bartoshuk of the Center for Smell and Taste at the University of Florida, the lady who coined the term supertaster in the first place. Bartoshuk divides subjects into three categories: nontasters, tasters, and hypertasters (a.k.a. supertasters). In other words, there's a continuum that runs from "pretty numb" to "incredibly sensitive."
Making that division is a complicated matter, Stuckey explains in Taste What You're Missing. People have different genetic predispositions for taste. For instance, many can't taste the bitter chemical 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP), but if saccharin tastes bitter to you, you may be one of those who can. And ear infections, dental work, and accidents can all damage both your taste buds and your body's "taste nerve," the chorda tympani.
But at least one part of the taster-type determination is an incredibly simple test anyone can do at home.
WHAT YOU NEED
• Blue food coloring
• A small cup or bowl
• Paper towels
• Cotton swabs
• 1 paper or plastic reinforcement ring for notebook paper
• A magnifying glass
• A mirror or a friend
1. Squirt a little blue food coloring into the cup or bowl.
2. Blot your tongue with paper towels to get it as dry as possible.
3. Apply the food coloring to your tongue with a cotton swab. Stuckey recommends keeping your tongue stuck out while the dye dries or else your lips will get blue. She also cautions against trying this over a rug: The dye never comes out.
4. Once your tongue is dry, put the reinforcement ring on your tongue.
5. Looking in the mirror or enlisting a friend's help, use the magnifying glass to count the number of taste buds inside the inner circle. They show up as undyed "bubbles" against a blue background.
0-15 = Nontaster (Stuckey prefers the term tolerant taster)
16-39 = Taster
40 or more = Congratulations, you're a hypertaster!