Flavour is the sensory impression of a food or other substance, and is determined mainly by the chemical senses of taste and smell, however, general pain, tactile and temperature receptors in the mouth may also have an important impact on overal sense of flavour. Actually, flavour denotes the sum of the characteristics of the material which produce that sensation.

Flavour is a property of a material (a food) as well as of the receptor mechanism of the person ingesting the food. Therefore the study of flavour includes the composition of food compounds possessing taste and/or smell, as well as the interaction of these compounds with the receptors in the taste and smell sensory organs. Our understanding of flavour perception mechanisms is still limited; however, it is clear that following an interaction, the organs produce signals that are carried to the central nervous system, thus creating what we understand as flavour. Although the main flavour components are taste and odour, other sensations, particularly attributed to the food texture (smoothness, roughness, granularity and viscosity), temperature, hotness, pain (spices), coolness (menthol), brothiness or fullness (certain amino acids), and tactile may play an important role depending on the food origin and its type. It is generally agreed that there are only four basic tastes: sweet, bitter, sour and salty, which are perceived by the taste buds in the tongue. However, taste enhancement, which is induced by some compounds (e.g. glutamic acid) and called by Japanese term ‘umami’ (deliciousness), has been recently accepted by many scientists as the fifth basic taste. The olfactory mechanism is more complex and more sensitive than the process of taste perception. The sensitivity of the smell organs is about 10 000 times greater than that of the taste organs and there are thousands of different odours, which may be induced by volatile compounds present in foods. Flavour science has been rapidly developing and one of the most important tasks of this wide research area is to understand interrelationship between the structure of food molecules and perceived flavour. Such knowledge is very important to improve taste and aroma of our foods.

This text was prepared by Rimantas Venskutonis, Kaunas University of Technology, Kaunas, Lithuania.

















The American Chemists Society: "Flavour Chemistry - the science behind the taste and smell of food"