The act of swallowing the drink sends a burst of aroma up the back of the nose from inside the mouth, activating a “second sense of smell” in the brain that is less receptive to the flavour, causing a completely different and less satisfying sensation.According to researchers, smell apparently works in both directions:
“One sense is when you inhale things from the environment into you, and the other is when the air comes out of you up the nasal passage and is breathed out through the nose.”
The phenomenon is down to the fact that, although we have sensors on our tongue, eighty per cent of what we think of as taste actually reaches us through smell receptors in our nose.
The receptors, which relay messages to our brain, react to odours differently depending on which direction they are moving in.This would explain the phenomenal cup of (McDonalds!) coffee I had last Thursday - when my nose was so stuffed up I had joined the ranks of mouth-breathers. It also explains why so many people love the scent of fresh brewed coffee, but cannot stand the taste.
There are only two aromas that are understood exactly the same way by the nose, whether coming or going: lavender and - you guessed it - chocolate.
I'm not quite sure what the take away here is. Hold you nose while you sip your coffee for a better tasting brew? Skip the drinking and light a coffee scented candle instead? Only drink coffee when your head is congested?
Let me finish my coffee while I think about that.