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Sensory Experiments



Have you ever wondered if you are a supertaster? Someone who notices the sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami flavors in food more strongly than the average person? One indicator is the number of “fungiform papillae” on your tongue.


The top of your tongue is covered with a layer of bumps called papillae. You may notice that it is rough and bumpy, while the underside of the tongue is very smooth. Papillae help grip food and move it around while you chew. The fungiform papillae also contain the taste buds. The more fungiform papillae you have, the more taste buds you have and the more sensitive to taste you are. On average, less sensitive tasters have fewer than 15 papillae in that area, while supertasters have over 30.


In order to find out how many papillae you have, there’s a simple experiment you can perform at home.

All you need is:


• Blue food coloring • Cotton buds • Paper reinforcement rings for hole-punched paper • Magnifying glass and mirror

Follow these instructions:


1. Using a cotton bud, swab some food coloring on to the tip of your tongue; let dry


2. Place a paper reinforcement ring on your tongue


3. Count the pink dots within the reinforcement ring. The pink dots are your fungiform papillae. They don't take up the food coloring. This may be easier with a magnifying glass and mirror.


Less than 15 papillae -- You are a less sensitive taster

Less sensitive taster.jpg

• Perceive all tastes as less intense than other taster types. They are particularly insensitive to bitter tastes • Are happy with most foods, irrespective of the type of food or its preparation • Have few papillae that are spread out and large, the tiny bumps on the tongue that contain taste buds • Around 25% of people are said to be less sensitive tasters

15-30 papillae -- You are a normal taster

Average taster.jpg

• Like a large variety of foods but care about how their food is prepared • Have an average number of medium-sized papillae, the tiny bumps on the tongue that contain taste buds • Around 50% of people are said to be normal tasters

Over 30 papillae -- You are a supertaster


• Perceive all tastes as more intense than other taster types, particularly bitter tastes • Tend to be fussy about their food and have strong food likes and dislikes • Usually don't like coffee, grapefruit, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and spinach • Have lots of papillae, the tiny bumps on the tongue that contain taste buds • Around 25% of people are said to be supertasters