How to Acquire New Tastes (by force)


Taste is a fickle thing. It makes critics of us all. I knew a guy who’d make fun of me for talking about the different flavours I could detect across a range of coffee beans. He thought I was making it all up. But the same guy would then wax lyrical about the fruits, forests and flowers that were apparently all in his wine glass.

To him, coffee is just a brown bean mixed with water.

To me, wine is just rotten grapes—fermentation simply being a specific kind of rotting.

Unfortunately, my love and chemical dependancy on three to five coffees a day put me in a bind—I was tired all the time, easily aggravated, and the skin on my face seemed to believe I was re-entering adolescence. I’m a mother of two typhoons, with plans to homeschool them both—for the sake of my fatigue I have to do something to sort this stupor out. A cleared up face would just be a happy side effect.

I find something innately comforting about holding a cup of something steaming. And if I can’t drink coffee without sugar, and a cup of hot water does nothing for me, there’s only one other way to go—I have to learn to like tea. The pretentious fruity ones.

A consistent thing I’ve noticed about fancy flavoured teas, is that they always, always smell better in the box than they taste in the cup. They taste like disappointment. Except for chamomile, which tastes like sticks.

Psychological manipulation can do a lot of things, but apparently it can’t make someone like chamomile tea. I searched for a neurological technique that tricks the brain into believing it likes a particular taste, but eventually had to conclude it doesn’t exist.

There is only one way to acquire a new taste: repetition. Dieticians who work with children and taste development say it takes up to ten exposures of a new taste before we’re even able to say if we sincerely like it or not. I’d just have to drink it. Again. And again. And again.

If there’s a good thing about herbal teas, it’s that there are so many of them. I didn’t have to have chamomile. I was able to at least swallow some berry-laden thing in a red box. It smelt deliciously like nuts while it was still dry—but only while it was still dry.

The first morning, I couldn’t stop grimacing after every sip. It made me feel ascetically healthy. This must be what discipline tastes like, I thought.

The next day, it wasn’t better, but it wasn’t worse either.

The next day, I was able to get to the bottom of the cup a little faster.

The next day, the grimaces felt more like microexpressions than like grand mal seizures.

The next day, I discovered that a different-berry-laden thing from a yellow box actually tasted much better, so I switched them out. I drank my new tea without discernible grimaces (I think), although still slowly.

This taste acquisition attempt has been going a couple of weeks, now. I still don’t like herbal or fruit teas. But they’re less gross than they used to be. I still allow myself one coffee a day, so I don’t get depressed and chuck in the towel on the whole endeavour. And I still plan to eat fresh pineapple. That way I can still have sweetness, with the food element forcing moderation. To get as much sugar from pineapples as I used to get from my coffees, I’d have to eat about ten whole pineapples a day—and who’s gonna do that?

Acquiring a new taste is a gradual process. I understand that. I’m just unclear on how long this self-inflicted experiment needs to last. It takes up to ten exposures of a new taste to know if we sincerely like it or not. Well, I’m well past ten fruit teas. I think.

But, I suppose, I don’t need to learn to enjoy teas as much as I enjoy a sweet coffee. Which is just as well, because that would be madness. I just need to learn to tolerate them well enough, so they can be acceptable substitutes for the times when I really just need to sip at a hot cup of a steaming something.


(4) Comments

  • Deborah Makarios
    09 Dec 2016

    I recommend rooibos/red bush tea. It actually tastes like something, rather than the ghost of something which drowned itself in your mug. I drink it when I wish I was drinking tea. (Iron levels. Also sleep.)
    Camomile tea is supposed to be good for nausea, so I used to drink it when I felt ill. Now I feel ill if I drink it. That’s habit for you.

    • Eve
      11 Dec 2016

      I’ve had a couple of recommendations for red bush. I plan to get that flavour next. I don’t want 500 boxes of teas floating around the kitchen though, so I mean to wait until one of my current boxes is gone, first.
      I loved the ghost-by-drowning description!

      • Deborah Makarios
        11 Dec 2016

        Teas do multiply if you don’t keep an eye on them. Not the sober black teas, mind you, just the fruity floral irresponsible types…

  • Rebekah
    13 Dec 2016

    You can eventually get to liking it. That’s what I did with tomatoes. Now I like having tomato in things. Took me a while of acclimatisation but I got there. =)

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