Taste Buds (Taste and Flavour)

Institute of Food Research
Institute of Food Research, Norwich Research Park, Colney, Norwich NR4 7UA, UK
www.ifr.ac.uk Tel: +44(0) 1603 255000 Fax: +44 (0)1603 507723

Taste and Flavour

Taste Buds

Learning Objectives Identify taste buds.

  • Recognise different types of taste buds
  • Describe the shapes of taste buds
  • Suggest reasons for different shaped taste buds

Key words: taste bud, receptor, papillae, tongue, nervous system


Basic tastes are detected by taste receptor cells or ‘Taste Buds’ on your tongue, throughout your mouth. Each taste bud has 50-150 taste receptors sensitive to certain chemicals. The taste buds are clustered in papillae.

Taste buds can be seen as non-staining regions on the tongue when food colouring is added. The non-staining regions are called papillae and they are the structures on your tongue that hold your taste buds. Non- and medium- tasters look as though they have polka dots on their tongues. Supertasters have a tiled effect on theirs, and the papillae will be edge to edge on the tip of the tongue.

There are 3 different types of papillae; fungiform (because they look like mushrooms), foliate (leaf shaped found on the sides of the tongue) and vallate papillae (large dome shaped ‘taste buds’ towards the back of the tongue. Taste buds are also found in the roof of the mouth (palate) and the back of the throat (including the oropharynx, larynx, epiglottis and upper oesophagus).


Swab the blue colouring on your tongue. Make sure that you cover the tip. If you look in the mirror, you should see little pink circles that don’t stain.

What you will require

• blue food colouring
• a cotton bud or cotton wool
• Magnifying glasses
• Mirrors


• Flexi cam or digital microscope (such as a dinolite®) and monitor

Health and Safety

Try to ensure a natural blue food colouring is used.

Further reading
Test your taste buds


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