Cup color influences the taste of hot chocolate

January 3rd, 2013
Two researchers from the Polytechnic University of Valencia and the University of Oxford have proven that hot chocolate tastes better in an orange or cream coloured cup than in a white or red one. The study adds to recent research demonstrating how our senses perceive food in a different way depending on the characteristics of the container from which we eat and drink.

"The colour of the container where food and drink are served can enhance some attributes like taste and aroma," as explained to SINC by Betina Piqueras-Fiszman, researcher at the Polytechnic University of Valencia (Spain). Along with her colleague Charles Spence, from the University of Oxford (UK), the scientist has come to the conclusion in the case of drinking chocolate.

Both conducted an experiment in which 57 participants had to evaluate samples of hot chocolate served in four different types of plastic cup. They were the same size but of different colours: white, cream, red and orange with white on the inside.

Published in the 'Journal of Sensory Studies', the results reveal that the flavour of chocolate served in orange or cream coloured cups was better for the tasting volunteers.

However, the sweetness (not the flavour of the cocoa) and the aroma (the smell) where hardly influenced by the colour of the cup, despite the participants mentioning that the chocolate was slightly sweeter and more aromatic in a cream coloured cup.

"There is no fixed rule stating that flavour and aroma are enhanced in a cup of a certain colour or shade," recognised Piqueras-Fiszman. "In reality this varies depending on the type of food, but the truth is that, as this effect occurs, more attention should be paid to the colour of the container as it has more potential than one could imagine."

According to the study, these results are relevant for those scientists interested in understanding how the brain integrates visual information not just from the food itself but from the receptacle or container from which it is consumed.

In addition, this information could encourage chefs, catering professionals and even the packaging industry to think more about the colour of crockery and packaging. As the researcher explains, "it is a case of experimenting to understand how the container itself affects the perceptions that the consumers have on the product."

In the same article the conclusions of previous studies are brought together that also confirm the effect of the container on the sensory characteristics of the food or beverage. There are many examples, from yellow tins to improve the flavour of lemon to soft drinks in cold colours, like blue, to seem more thirst-quenching than warm colours like red. Furthermore, if drinks come in pink, they are even perceived as being more sugary.

In other cases, it has been proven that a strawberry mousse appears to be sweeter and more intense on a white plate compared to a black plate. And as for coffee, the majority of those surveyed associated brown packaging to a stronger flavour and aroma, whereas reds seem to accentuate this sensation and blues and yellows make the drink seems softer.

More information:
Betina Piqueras-Fiszman, Charles Spence. "The influence of the color of the cup on consumers' perception of a hot beverage". Journal of Sensory Studies 27 (5): 324–331, 2012.

Provided by Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT)

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