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Color of Cup Influences Perception of Flavor, Study Finds

Hot chocolate in an orange cup tastes better
Hot chocolate in an orange cup tastes better
Flickr/Rev Stan

Would cocoa in a cup of a different color taste as sweet? Maybe not, according to new research by scientists in Spain and England.

University researchers found that different colored cups can affect the perceived flavor of hot chocolate, UPI reports. "The color of the container where food and drink are served can enhance some attributes like taste and aroma," said study co-author Betina Piqueras-Fiszman, a researcher at the Universitat Politècnica de València in Spain and the University of Oxford in England.

Piqueras-Fiszman and her colleagues asked 57 people to sip four samples of the same hot chocolate from different colored plastic cups: white, cream, orange and red. At the end of the experiment, all 57 participants said the hot chocolate in the orange and cream cups tasted better, with some reporting it was sweeter or smelled better. The findings were published in the Journal of Sensory Studies.

That perception was all in their heads. Past studies have shown that soda is considered more refreshing when served in a blue can (perceived as colder than a "warm" red can -- sorry Coke), drinks served from pink containers are perceived as being more sugary, and coffee is thought to taste stronger when it comes in a brown package. Other studies have shown that factors such as price and verbal descriptions of food can also affect how flavor is perceived.

The findings are evidence the brain integrates visual information not just from the food itself but from the receptacle or container from which it is consumed, the researchers said.

"There is no fixed rule stating that flavor and aroma are enhanced in a cup of a certain color or shade," Betina Piqueras-Fiszman said. "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 color of the container as it has more potential than one could imagine."

But don't take what these Spanish scientists say for granted -- it's always better to do your own research.


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