Each September, emissaries from some of the nation’s biggest food companies gather at Rutgers University’s New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, in New Brunswick, for a two-day crash course aimed at helping them decode the science of human taste. Attendees from brands like Nabisco and Chipotle, and from government agencies like the U.S.D.A., might learn to map the chemical flavor profile of apple juice in order to identify abnormalities by smell. They might create a vocabulary for the scent, sight, texture, and taste of toast, to create a common language with which to evaluate baked goods. And they might design a taste test to determine whether chocolate-chip-cookie consumers really prefer more chips per bite, or just like seeing the words "extra chocolate" on a label… Our first assignment was to learn how to "calibrate" our taste buds. Just as an orchestra gets in tune before each performance, professionals who are evaluating a food product should get on the same page with their terms. What, for example, qualifies as "salty" in a particular kind of cheese? What qualifies as "sweet"?… The most fun exercise – and the most useful one for an ordinary cheese lover – was the lesson on aromas.
/ / A Geek’s Guide to Cheese Tasting