The perception of taste varies according to the genetic makeup of different individuals. In fact, these taste genetics can determine whether a person will prefer coffee or tea.
What does this mean?
There is a version of a gene that increases sensitivity to the bitter taste of caffeine. Those with this gene tend to be coffee drinkers, as they are able to detect caffeine’s bitterness. Research was conducted to connect DNA gene variants to the recognition of bitter taste of chemicals, caffeine, quinine, and propylthiouracil, testing different people’s DNA from around the world. Analysts then calculated each person’s variants in the taste genes, creating a genetic score for how intensely the person tastes each of the bitter chemicals. Researchers connected these statistical analytics to said people’s lifestyle in relation to the beverages of their choice: coffee or tea.
It was determined that people who had the highest genetic score for detecting caffeine’s bitterness were 20 percent more likely to drink a lot of coffee, while those without or less of the increased sensitivity gene were stated to be tea drinkers.
Why is this important?
Prior to this research discovery, it was thought that people with “increased sensitivity” to bitter tastes would tend to avoid bitter foods or drinks. However the choice of drinking coffee or tea may not only result from this gene sensitivity. The study coauthor, Marilyn Cornelis, a nutritional and genetic epidemiologist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, says “coffee drinkers may have learned to enjoy caffeine’s bitterness because it’s a sign of the buzz the chemical provides. But tea drinkers may not actually like the bitterness of propylthiouracil and quinine.” This means that tea drinkers may exist only as a result of the rejection of coffee, as caffeinated tea still gives the consumer a slight “buzz.” Although the role of bitter taste genes on whether a person is a coffee or tea drinker is still not completely certain, researchers have made strides with this last test report, as it is now known that taste genes are somewhat linked to coffee and tea consumption.
As an avid coffee drinker myself, I believe it is possible that I possess these taste genes. My dad, and his mom (my grandma) both are heavy coffee drinkers, so I think I can now say, “it is in my DNA to be addicted to coffee.”