What does your coffee say about you?

Hand a glass of white wine to a professional wine taster—how will he rate it? Let’s say 88 on a scale of 80 to 100. Give the same wine to him again, even minutes later—the rating will be plus or minus four points, on average. After adding flavorless dye to one of the glasses, researchers at the University of Bordeaux found even experts mistook the dyed liquid for a typical red. And like non-experts, wine professionals will rate a glass of wine from a fancy bottle higher than the same wine poured from a cheap bottle. (You know, something with a bird on it.)

British psychologist Richard Wiseman found that average consumers have a 50/50 chance of guessing which wine is $5 and which is $48. Serve a non-expert a glass of wine during an fMRI and tell her it’s expensive; her brain scan suggests she’ll enjoy it much more than if she thinks it’s cheap. In short, nobody can tell the good stuff from the jug wine. (This is a modified take on William Goldman’s rule of studio filmmaking: “Nobody knows anything.”)

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Charles Spence, an experimental psychologist at Oxford, says these wine-centric conclusions can likely be applied to coffee. “They both have a very complex, aromatic and multi-sensory profile of taste and texture,” he said. Spence earned a name for himself with clever studies showing that cup color changes the taste of hot chocolate, and the sound of an espresso machine affects the perceived taste of the brew.

(In case you doubt the wine versus coffee comparison, a Consumer Reports blind taste test determined that Folger’s decaf is the best of the grocery store offerings, noting it has “a touch of fruitiness and earthiness, but papery and cereal aromas make it a good candidate for milk and sugar.”)

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Read the rest at The Awl.

Coffee splash photo via dongga.

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