An acquired taste is an appreciation for something unlikely to be enjoyed by a person who has not had substantial exposure to it. It is the opposite of innate taste, which is the appreciation for things that are enjoyable by most persons without prior exposure to them.
In case of food and drink, the difficulty of enjoying the product may be due to a strong odor (such as certain types of cheese, durian, hákarl, black salt, nattō, asafoetida, surströmming, or stinky tofu), taste (as in alcoholic beverages, coffee, Vegemite or Marmite, bitter teas, liquorice/salty liquorice, malt bread, unsweetened chocolate, garnatálg, rakfisk, soused herring, haggis), mouthfeel (such as sashimi and sushi featuring uncooked seafood), appearance, or association (such as eating insects or organ meat).
The following items can be described as "acquired tastes", often due to combination of both unfamiliarity and intensity of taste. In principle, though, anything for which one can have a taste, can also become an acquired taste. An acquired taste is distinguished by how one comes to have the taste, not what the thing in question is.
- Aloe vera, a type of plant whose inner pulp is sometimes used in drinks, very common in Japan
- Anchovies, small fish cured in brine, known for their intensely strong flavor, often used as a pizza topping
- Beer, especially strong ales and stouts
- Bitters, an alcohol flavoured with bitter plant extracts, used as an additive in cocktails or as a medicinal substance to promote appetite or digestion.
- Bitter melon, an extremely bitter fruit similar to cucumber
- Blood sausage, sausage made by cooking animal blood with a filler until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled
- Calamari (squid)
- Camel paw, a Chinese delicacy served in the Forbidden City
- Campari, a bitter Italian aperitif
- Capers, pickled and salted buds or fruits of the caper shrub.
- Chamoy, heavily-salted Mexican plum or apricot paste with chili powder
- Chili pepper the common source of "hot" spices.
- Cilantro, (also known as coriander), some people perceive an unpleasant "soapy" taste and/or a rank smell. This is believed to be a result of an enzyme that changes the way they taste coriander leaves (a genetic trait).
- Clamato, a drink made primarily of reconstituted tomato juice concentrate and reconstituted dried clam broth, with a dash of high-fructose corn syrup, and USDA Red 40 to maintain a 'natural' tomato colour
- Cow Cod Soup, Jamaican bull penis soup
- Cow tongue
- Cup cheese, a Pennsylvania Dutch runny cheese, sharp or mild, having roughly the color and consistency of snot
- Dark chocolate, processed chocolate that has little or no added sugar or milk, and therefore has a bitter taste.
- Dijon mustard
- Durian, a pungent southeast Asian fruit
- Eel, seafood, an Anguilliform
- Eulachon grease, extracted from eulachon fish
- Feet, of cow, calf, pig, duck, chicken, camel, goat, etc.
- Fernet, a particularly strong, grape based, herbal digestif
- Fish Sauce, a condiment derived from fish that have been allowed to ferment
- Gravlax, raw-marinated salmon
- Gull eggs, eaten boiled and popular in Scandinavia and some partes of Scotland and Ireland
- Haggis, a traditional Scottish dish mainly consisting of minced sheep offal, boiled in a sheep's stomach.
- Hajmola, a digestive candy made in India.
- Head cheese, a dish made of meat from an animal's skull covered with gelatin (usually set in a mold)
- Insects, including grubs, ants, grasshoppers, locusts, etc.
- Jägermeister, a strong German herbal digestif
- Kimchi, traditional Korean dish of fermented chili peppers and vegetables, usually made from Chinese cabbage
- Lapsang souchong, smoked Chinese black tea
- Lobster tomalley, the soft, green substance found in the body cavity of lobsters, that fulfills the functions of both the liver and the pancreas.
- Mugicha, or barley tea, which is a popular Japanese beverage
- Edible Mushrooms, a mushroom that can potentially be safely eaten.
- Octopus, seafood, a cephalopod
- Olives, fermented or cured fruit of the olive tree, come in different varieties and have a salty, bitter, oily taste.
- Pork rind, the cooked skin of a pork
- Pu erh, a compressed, aged tea dominated by strong, earthy overtones
- Rivella, a Swiss carbonated soft drink. It is made from whey, also known as milk plasma.
- Root beer, an herbal flavored soft drink
- Scotch whisky, a woody tasting alcoholic substance.
- Scrapple, a slab of leftover pork parts.
- Stink Bean, beans bearing a rather peculiar smell, quite popular in southeast Asia
- Stinky tofu, a form of fermented tofu, which, as the name suggests, has a strong odor.
- Switchel, an Anglo-caribbean summer drink based on vinegar and molasses, also called Haymaker's Punch
- Tobacco, Smoked, chewed, etc ; some also claim Cannabis is an acquired taste.
- Unicum, a Hungarian herbal bitter
Acquiring the taste
General acquisition of tastes
The process of acquiring a taste can involve developmental maturation, genetics (of both taste sensitivity and personality), family example, and biochemical reward properties of foods. Infants are born preferring sweet foods and rejecting sour and bitter tastes, and they develop a preference for salt at approximately 4 months. However, vegetables tend to be a favourite as they start to learn to feed themselves. Neophobia (fear of novelty) tends to vary with age in predictable, but not linear, ways. Babies just beginning to eat solid foods generally accept a wide variety of foods, toddlers and young children are relatively neophobic towards food, and older children, adults, and the elderly are often adventurous eaters with wide-ranging tastes.
The general personality trait of novelty-seeking does not necessarily correlate highly with willingness to try new foods. Level of food adventurousness may explain much of the variability of food preferences observed in "supertasters". Supertasters are highly sensitive to bitter, spicy, and pungent flavours, and some avoid them and like to eat only mild, plain foods, but many supertasters who have high food adventurousness enjoy these intense flavors and seek them out. Some chemicals or combinations of chemicals in foods provide both flavor and beneficial or enjoyable effects on the body and mind and may be reinforcing, leading to an acquired taste. A study that investigated the effect of adding caffeine and theobromine (active compounds in chocolate) vs. a placebo to identically-flavored drinks that participants tasted several times, yielded the development of a strong preference for the drink with the compounds.
Intentional acquisition of tastes
Intentionally changing one's preferences can be hard to accomplish. It usually requires a deliberate effort, acting as if one likes something in order to have the responses and feelings that will produce the desired taste. The challenge becomes one of distinguishing authentic or legitimate acquired tastes as a result of deeply considered preference changes from inauthentic ones motivated by status or conformity.
- Absinthe, What is Absinthe? About its Science, Chemistry and Structure
- Absinthe, the Potent Green Fairy
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