Mapping Your Taste Buds
Developed from SciTek
Is it possible to improve the soft drink taste testing procedure? In the previous laboratory, tasters
were not required to taste the soft drinks on any particular part of their tongues. In this next laboratory,
you will “map” the taste centers of your tongue to determine which areas are most sensitive to particular
tastes. Understanding the taste centers of the human tongue can help you refine the soda taste test so it
gives more consistent results.
1. One team member will record data (Recorder); the other team members are tasters. Each
group member should label their data tables accordingly.
2. The gopher needs obtain from the supply table 4 cups for the group. Using a pen and
masking tape, label one sample cup Sweet, one Sour, one Salty, and one Trash.
3. For each member of the group, the gopher needs to acquire 2 cotton swabs and a cup for
4. Using a new end of a cotton swab for each trial, have each student who is a taster dip a swab
into the Sweet solution, then touch it to all parts of his or her tongue. Each taster must touch
the swabs to his or her own tongue. Used swabs must not be placed again in the sample
5. The region of the tongue where Sweet is most intense should be reported to the recorder to
be marked on the tongue diagram.
6. Placed your used swab in the cup labeled Trash.
7. Repeat steps 4-6 using the Sour and Salty solutions.
8. Ask your teacher for a Bitter strip. The strip is to be placed on the tongue just as you would a
9. Report your findings to your recorder. The recorder will document the findings
in the data table.
10. Place your used paper in the cup labeled Trash.
11. Once each taster has acquired their data, the gopher may dispose of materials in the lab sinks
and trash can.
12. The reporter should allow the other group members to input the data into their lab reports.
13. In your group analyze the data and complete the conclusion questions.
1. Be sure that this lab activity takes place in a food safe section of the classroom.
Data Table: (This is to represent a tongue of each group member.)
Back Back Back
R L R L R L
Front Front Front
1. Compare all of the tongue maps for your team.
a. Where were the similarities between the tasters? The differences?
b. How do the tongue maps relate to your cola tasting experience in the previous
laboratory? Do you notice any relationships between the ability to taste sweetness on
a certain part of the tongue and the ability to recognize the off-spec soft drink?
2. As a class, we will come to a decision on the location of each taste on the tongue. Using the
classroom display answer the following questions:
a. Sketch the final tongue map. Identify the areas of greatest agreement and greatest
b. Based on the final tongue, are there specific locations on the tongue where sweet,
sour, salty and bitter are tasted? What is your evidence supporting your answer?
1. From the data collected from the entire class, where do most people taste sweetness on their
2. How can you use this data to enhance your taste testings?
1. Write a short summary stating your conclusions and describing how the soft drink taste
procedure could be made more reliable.