Taste Terminology

Defined attributes allow for the panel of ChefsBest Master Tasters to operate with a common lexicon to then define quality for a category, and measure against that Quality Definition.

Language development is a critical process within each sensory evaluation that ChefsBest conducts. As part of the process for determining and measuring quality via scientific, data-driven methods, ChefsBest Master Tasters develop common lexicon to describe the appearances, tastes, textures, flavors, and aromas of the products that are put before them to be judged for each category. Below are examples of the sensory vocabulary used by Master Tasters when discussing the attributes an award winning product should or should not exhibit and will be measured against.

The degree to which some foods stick to the tongue, teeth or upper palate; not to be confused with “cohesiveness,” which is the degree to which food sticks together. Example: PeaThe degree to which some foods stick to the tongue, teeth or upper palate; not to be confused with “cohesiveness,” which is the degree to which food sticks together. Example: Peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth; white bread sticking to the teeth.nut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth; white bread sticking to the teeth.
The taste remaining in the mouth after eating or drinking; sometimes associated with unpleasant flavors or bitterness. Example: Some diet sweeteners contain notes of bitterness
The visual quality of a food. Used to organize attributes such as color and consistency of size, it is one of the five dimensions used to evaluate food. The other dimensions are aroma, texture, flavor and taste. Example: The appearance of green olives includes attributes such as color (pale to dark) and consistency of size (inconsistent to consistent).
The smell that emanates from food. Along with appearance, texture, flavor and taste, aroma is one of the five dimensions used to evaluate a product. Example: Brownies should have an aroma that includes chocolate as well as egg, toasty and sweet notes.
The taste remaining in the mouth after eating or drinking; sometimes associated with unpleasant flavors or bitterness. Example: Some diet sweeteners contain notes of bitterness
A narrowly defined quality belonging to a food or ingredient; used to break the many qualities of food into specific parts that can be evaluated separately. Example: To judge cheese crackers, Certified Master Tasters will look at specific attributes like cheese intensity, saltiness, crispness, color, and the character of cheese flavors.
One of the basic tastes; often considered harsh and unpleasant in abundance, but a key basic taste for foods like coffee and dark chocolate. Example: Unripened fruit, aspirin and coffee all have bitter components.
bitter intensity
The measurement of perceived bitterness in a particular food. Example: Brewed coffee sometimes has a strong bitter intensity.
blind test
A form of judging in which brand identities are hidden from the judges to promote impartiality. ChefsBest conducts blind tests on all of the products it judges. Example: By identifying foods with code numbers instead of their brand names, ChefsBest is able to create a blind test.
An aromatic associated with ocean air, salt water, pickling salts. Brine is an aroma, not a taste.
The tendency of some foods or ingredients to have a fine or powdery texture that clings to the mouth. Example: Antacid liquids and meal replacement drinks can have an unpleasant chalky texture.
The combined aromas and flavors of a particular food or ingredient. The character of a food is considered simple when it is one-dimensional, but it is complex when it has many discernible ingredients. Example: Mole sauce has several ingredients that blend to give the sauce a complex character. Granulated sugar has a very simple character.
Sometimes used as a synonym for “attribute;” refers to a distinctive quality of a food or ingredient. Example: A characteristic of French fries is their golden color.
The texture of a food as it is being chewed, as opposed to the texture of the first bite. Example: High-quality beef jerky should be tender but have a long chew.
clean finish
When a food, particularly its oil component, clears from the palate after swallowing, leaving no residue behind; often the opposite of “waxy” or “coating.” Example: A high-quality pound cake will have a clean finish after swallowing, with no greasiness or oiliness left behind.
Disgust or sicken (someone) with an excess of sweetness, richness, or sentiment.
The tendency of some foods to stick together while being chewed, as opposed to sticking to the teeth, tongue or palate. Example: Because they are cohesive, both bubble gum and white bread lump together into a ball while being chewed.
A group of food attributes that are organized by which senses are used to perceive them. ChefsBest Master Tasters consider five dimensions when tasting food: aroma (smell), appearance (sight), flavor (a combination of smell and taste), texture (touch) and taste. Example: The texture dimension of a food includes attributes (such as initial bite, chew, crispness and cohesiveness) that can be felt while the food is in the mouth.
A measurement of time for a perceived attribute to diminish in intensity or leave the palate. Example: Honey has a slow rate of dissolve due to the thick, syrupy texture.
A flavoring or aroma reminiscent of fresh earth, soil, or organic matter. Example: Mushrooms provide earthy flavoring and aroma.
A combination of a food's basic taste and its accompanying aroma, flavor is the distinctive taste of a food or ingredient while it is in the mouth. Along with aroma, appearance, texture and taste, flavor is one of the five dimensions considered by ChefsBest Master Tasters. Example: Chocolate chip cookies should have a moderate chocolate flavor accompanied by a slightly lower level of complex dough flavor that includes egg, flour, vanilla and brown sugar notes.
flavor balance
A measurement of how well a food product matches the expected profile of flavors. Example: If there is too much garlic in a marinara sauce, the flavor of garlic will dominate the other flavors, making the overall flavor unbalanced.
flavor intensity
A measurement of the strength of a flavor in a particular food. Example: High-quality chocolate will have high cocoa flavor intensity.
flavor note
An individual flavor that exists within a given food’s blend of flavors. Example: Tomato sauce might have a basil flavor note.
A group of products that are similar enough to each other to be judged together. Products within a given flight generally have common attributes that vary in a significant way from products in related flights. Example: An ice cream judging may have flights of vanilla, chocolate, coffee and butter pecan, all judged separately.
A natural, flower-like aroma or flavor. Example: High-quality vinegar, vanilla, honey, Mandarin oranges and dark chocolate can all have floral notes.
A texture relating to the presence or likeness of gelatin; often a thick, elastic product. Example: Stock forms a gelatinous layer from the presence of animal bones.
A texture consisting of grain particles; unsmooth. Example: Whole-grain bread, corn chips and brown rice can have a grainy texture.
A natural flavor or aroma suggesting grass. Example: Green tea, olive oil and some dairy products can have grassy notes.
Tough cartilaginous, tendinous or fibrous matter, especially in table meats.
When a food or ingredient has a thick and sticky texture. Example: Prepared tapioca has gumminess from its starch component.
The intensity of spiciness or the perceived warmth of food in the mouth. Example: Hot sauce has a distinct flavor, but it also possesses a heat component that warms the mouth.
initial bite
The sensation of texture from the first bite of a particular food, as opposed to the sensation while it is being chewed. Example: A cookie might offer resistance on its initial bite, but it will crumble easily when chewed. Corn should have a snap on its initial bite.
lactic tang
A flavoring often present in dairy products due to lactic acid, and often identified by the sour milk flavor. Example: Cream cheese has a strong note of lactic tang.
A textural descriptor, created by way of biological or chemical reaction, the introduction of gas to a product in order to increase the volume of product. As related to food, baking powder and soda represent two chemical agents, while yeast is a biological leavening agent.
The texture experienced while food is being eaten. Examples include smooth, chalky, grainy or greasy. Example: Super premium ice cream is often described as having a rich and smooth mouthfeel.
A textural term used in describing the proper consistency of a sauce, enough to coat the back of a spoon. Example: A turkey gravy should come to a nappe consistency.
An unpleasant or volatile aroma. Example: Spoiled canned goods can have a noxious smell when opened.
A flavor reminiscent of raw, toasted, or cooked nuts. Example: Brown butter is often noted for its nutty aromas.
off notes
Inappropriate flavors, such as rancid or oxidized oils, freezer burn, plastic, metallic or other flavors acquired from a food’s packaging and storage. Example: Canned pineapple that picks up a metallic flavor from its can or stale flavors from freezer burn in a frozen entrée are types of off notes.
perceived intensity
A measurement of how prevalent a basic taste seems in a given food as opposed to how much of the detected ingredient is actually present. Example: A food that is both sweet and sour might seem less sweet than another food with the same amount of sugar, but without a sour component.
piece consistency
When the individual pieces of a food or ingredient are similar in size and shape, making it easier to prepare them consistently. Example: If all frozen fish sticks in a package are the same size and shape, their piece consistency will make them easy to cook without burning some or undercooking others.
The second layer of skin on fruit, commonly citrus. When used as a flavor descriptor, pith represents a bitter, tannic flavor.
Having a sharp, strong taste. Example: Aged European cheese often have pungent aromas.
A stale, unpleasant aroma or flavor, often produced by oxidized or decomposed oils. Example: Old potato chips and spoiled salad dressing can have rancid aromas and flavors.
Associated with creamy and dense mouthfeel; often evident in products containing significant amounts of butter or cream. Example: Alfredo sauce, coffee and super premium ice cream can be described as rich.
One of the basic tastes; tasting of or containing salt. Example: Potato chips, sea water and cured meats all have a strong salt component.
salt intensity
A measurement of the perceived saltiness in a particular food. Example: A regular tortilla chip will have a higher salt intensity than an unsalted tortilla chip.
A flavoring of interchangeably used in the five basic tastes, referencing the presence of umami notes. Often associated with meaty, cooked, or earthy items.
A flavor resulting from burning the surface of a product with flame or heat, often lending a charred or blackened flavor. Example: Scorched meat can provide a burnt or blackened flavor to stock.
A technique utilizing high heat to quickly cook the exterior of a product. In meat preparation, the exterior of the product undergoes maillard reaction, more commonly understood as the caramelization of proteins; this process lends caramelized notes and a crisp exterior to meat products. Example: Seared pork chops have a golden crisp crust.
A measure of sugar. In terms of wine and sparkling wine, Sec refers to lower sugar wines, generally between 17-32g per litre
sensory evaluation
A scientific discipline that analyzes and measures human responses to food and beverages. A professional sensory evaluation is much more than just a blind taste test. The expert panel of chefs at ChefsBest measures the attributes in order of experience - appearance, aroma, basic taste, flavor and texture. A single evaluation can yield anywhere from 20-100 pages of sensory data.
When a food breaks apart cleanly. Example: Fresh corn, grapes, carrots and the casing of a hot dog will have a snap when bitten.
One of the basic tastes; often considered sharp, tart and acidic. Example: Lemon juice, vinegar and fermented foods often have a strong sour component.
sour intensity
A measurement of the perceived sourness or acidity in a particular food. Example: Lemon juice without any sugar has a high sour intensity.
structural integrity
A measurement of the solidity and durability of a food or ingredient when eaten, prepared or transported. Example: Potato chips that remain unbroken in the bag have good structural integrity, but frozen crab cakes that fall apart while being cooked do not.
One of the basic tastes; often considered pleasing while exhibiting characteristics of sugar. Example: Honey, ripe fruits and syrup all have a pronounced sweet component.
sweet intensity
Measures the perceived natural or artificial sweetness in a particular food. Example: Apple cinnamon cereal will have a high sweet intensity.
A thick and sticky, glue like texture. Example: Cake frosting has a tacky consistency.
A notably sharp aroma or flavor. Example: Orange juice and sharp cheddar cheese both have a tangy flavor.
taste profile
The expected levels of each basic taste in any given food; defines the overall taste balance. Example: The taste profile of baking chocolate is led by bitterness that is balanced by a low amount of sweetness.
A dimension used to organize attributes like mouthfeel, graininess and initial bite, it is one of the five dimensions used by ChefsBest Master Tasters to evaluate food. Example: Glazed popcorn will have a crunch texture. The texture of milk chocolate should be creamy and smooth.
of palatable flavor and pleasing texture.
One of the basic tastes; the savory flavor in meat and broths; sometimes an additive (MSG). Example: Natural Parmesan cheese, meats, seaweed, fish sauce and sesame exhibit an umami taste.
A texture of or having a thick consistency. Example: Whipping cream is a viscous dairy liquid.
A flavoring of or related to plants. Example: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is known for lemon grass and vegetal notes.
A liquid byproduct of fermentation of ethanol, commonly wine or fermented fruit. When used as flavor descriptor, ‘vinegary’ is known for strong aromas from acetic acid, the resulting product of fermented ethanol. Example: Spoiled wine has a vinegary aroma.
When a product leaves a coating on the palate that does not dissolve easily. Example: Poor-quality chocolate, margarine and white chocolate can leave a waxy film after being swallowed.
Single cell organisms that convert sugar into two by-products, alcohol and CO2. Commonly used in baking and production of alcohol; when undissolved or inactivated, yeast leave a distinct salty and sour after taste. As a descriptor, ‘yeasty’ references a sour umami taste, reminiscent of the presence of inactive yeast.
The outer peel of produce, most commonly from citrus fruits, used for flavoring. When used as a flavor descriptor, Zest or zesty references the sour notes found in outer peel of citrus.