from the How's-that-taste,-Bud? dept.
Most humans can be placed into three major categories of tasters—nontasters, tasters, and supertasters, roughly in the ratio of 25 percent: 50 percent: 25 percent. There is also a small percentage (less than 1 percent) of humanity categorized in a super-supertaster category. Supertasters are mostly women, and people of European ancestry are usually not supertasters. So what exactly is a supertaster? You might think that a supertaster would have a lot of fun eating and drinking, but it's more like the opposite. Because supertasters experience tastes more intensely than nontasters and tasters, the effects of different tastes detected by tongues of supertasters are amplified relative to the nontasters and tasters. Super-supertasters have it even worse than supertasters. Taste is a good case of "more is not better."
The best way to describe the differences between the categories of tasting is to take one of my favorite beverages to taste—beer—and explain how each of the categories of tasting will respond to this beverage. The Master Brewers Association of the Americas recommend what is called the American Society of Brewing Chemists flavor wheel to help its members assess the taste of their brews. The flavor wheel was created by a coauthor of Sensory Evaluation Techniques, first published in the 1970s and now in its fifth edition. Morten Meilgaard, a professor of the senses and how to measure them, created the taste wheel to lend a more quantitative aspect to beer tasting.
[...] What is an effective technique for examining how many papillae someone has in a given area of the tongue? All of them involve darkening it, and the most enjoyable is to swirl red wine in the mouth and over the tongue. If done correctly, you will be able to see little lumps of tissue on the tongue that are the papillae. Next, take a piece of three-hole notebook paper. The punched holes are about 6 or so millimeters in diameter, and a piece of paper torn off with one of these holes can be placed over the darkened tongue. Now simply count the number of papillae you see in the punched hole. If you have fewer than 4 papillae, you are more than likely a nontaster, whereas from 4 to 8 papillae would suggest that you are a taster. Anything over 8 would indicate that you are a supertaster or a super-supertaster.
So get out there and help them with their research.