The preparation and consumption of coffee provides a complex multi-sensory experience generated by the combined senses of vision, smell, taste, and touch. The experience is also influenced by temperature and the environment in which it’s consumed.
Reaching all the senses
The full sensory experience spans the period of preparation through to consumption. It begins with the coffee aroma experienced when opening the container, to the visual cues seen when preparing the coffee, including the colour of the coffee and the presence of crema or coffee foam. Arguably, the sensory experience of enjoying a cup of coffee might even start upon entering a coffee shop and hearing the sound of a machine as research suggests that sound plays an essential role in customers’ daily interactions with products, often influencing their cognitive processes, emotions, and behaviour12.
Finally, both the aroma and taste of coffee contribute to the experience of consumption. The addition of milk or sugar to a cup of coffee, not only alters the flavour profile but may also impact aroma, with research suggesting reduced levels of aroma are experienced when additions to coffee are included13. Researchers have also suggested that lower fat, homogenized milks, with correspondingly smaller fat globules, can induce a more intense coffee related taste and aroma when compared to whole milk14.
The multisensory experience attained when consuming a cup of coffee spans all the senses to deliver the full coffee experience, and enables one to judge the quality and pleasure of the cup of coffee. Drinking a cup of coffee without one of the sensorial cues (e.g. without sensing the coffee aroma) will reduce the impact of the other senses and the overall experience and pleasure derived from the cup of coffee.
The role of appearance
The visual appearance of coffee and how it is presented can also play an important role in the multi-sensory experience and may even impact the perceived taste of coffee. Research has suggested that the colour of the serving cup can impact the perception of taste of the cup of coffee. For example, a white mug was shown to enhance the rating of intensity of a cup of coffee, and was described as less sweet compared to coffee served in a transparent or a blue mug15.
Another study on latte art revealed that an angular shape, relative to a more rounded shape, influenced people’s expectations concerning the likability, bitterness and quality of the drink16. Thickening the consistency of coffee has also been associated with a reduction in coffee flavour and aroma17.
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