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Flavor Is More Than Just Taste

Woman smelling the aroma of a fresh cup of espresso.
frantic00/Shutterstock

While the words “taste” and “flavor” are often used interchangeably, you’d be surprised to know these terms mean two different things. Here’s how the two intersect, and what it means for your dining experience

At a glance, both words seem synonymous, yet taste is only one component concerning flavor as a whole. Flavor is a sensory experience and includes elements like aroma, texture, and taste of foods, while taste alone is an alerting sensation. Let’s dive in a little more.

How Our Taste Buds Perceive Foods

When you place food in your mouth, what you are eating makes a direct connection with the thousands of taste buds on your tongue.

Once your tongue makes that connection, information gets passed along to alert the brain with one of the five basic tastes, including salty, sour, sweet, bitter, and umami. So, while these five basic tastes become identified when you eat something, this sense also contributes significantly to the experience of flavor.

The flavor of food is all about aroma, texture, and taste, and when achieved correctly, it’s a gratifying experience, to say the least. When something slow cooks all day (for example), the aroma travels into the nostrils and then to the back of the mouth. This phenomenon is called orthonasal olfaction.

Texture also plays a significant role here, as the way food feels will make or break your experience. The temperature of food works hand in hand with texture as well. For example, if you order creamy hot lobster bisque at a restaurant, but instead receive a lukewarm thin and flavorless soup, you’ll be disappointed with that outcome.

However, if you can smell the fresh lobster as it travels across the dining room, and it’s garnished with hot steam and boasts a luscious and rich base, your mouth will water in anticipation.


The aroma of foods, coupled with the taste and mouthfeel, all work together to create a satisfying experience for the one eating. When one of those factors is off, the meal may not meet your expectations, and in turn, create a poor dining experience.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »

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