Opinion Science

If Cilantro Tastes Like Soap To You, You Could Be Making BANK

The other day, Foodbeast Elie ran up on me with some food science questions to help build his TikTok clout. One of the things he asked me was about cilantro tasting like soap.

@yungfoodbeast#AskCosta: why does CILANTRO taste like SOAP 🧼?! || #foodbeast outhereflourishing _bookofelie♬ original sound – yungfoodbeast

A lot of y’all responded with questions about it, especially the part where I said you could be making bank off of it. So I decided to write out a more in-depth response than what 15-20 seconds of TikTok content can get you. That, and Elie hits me with these questions off-guard usually, and as a scientist, I want to make sure I’m getting you the best information possible, rather than what I cobble together in my brain in a half-second.

Hopefully, this answers most, if not all, of what you’re curious to know when it comes to cilantro, your palate, and how you could be making money off of it.

Cilantro itself can taste like soap to those who have the genes coded for it. How this works is simple: those who have the genes coded for it have receptors in our nose  (called olfactory receptors) that pick up the soapy aroma of cilantro when it’s released. These chemicals are released no matter what, it’s just a matter of whether we can detect them or not.

Those that can pick them up will get that soapy aroma, which also translates to a bitter taste when you bite into cilantro. If that’s the case for you, there’s a chance that you could be something called a “supertaster.

Supertasters are those who have specific taste receptors that pick up bitter compounds called phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) and propylthiouracil (PROP), compounds often found in vegetables like kale, broccoli, and brussel sprouts. It’s unclear yet if this compound is present in cilantro, but these taste receptors (or other ones on the tongue) could play into why cilantro has a bitter taste to some. The aroma receptor definitely is a key factor, however.

Those who have these receptors also generally have more tastebuds on their tongue than the average population; supertasters can comprise as much as 25% of the general population.

In a similar vein to supertasters, there are also “supersmellers” who have more, and a higher variety, of types of aroma/olfactory receptors in their noses. Folks who think cilantro tastes like soap often fall into this category as well.

When it comes to making money, supertasters’ and supersmellers’ palates are valued because of both the variety and frequency of their taste buds and olfactory receptors. It means that they are more likely to discern the slightest of differences between products, especially when it comes to more bitter foods like chocolate and coffee.

In the food industry, those with heightened taste and smell can actually get hired to sample product right as it’s coming off the production line. They’re mainly looking to find if there are any slight differences in taste between batches, and if one is detected, they can alert the food science team and let them know something is amiss. These taste testers are a key part of quality control, and often get paid pretty well as a result of that.

Of course, being a food taster for one of these companies is no walk in the park. It requires extensive training to ensure you recognize what the flavor of a product should taste like, calibrating your tongue like a machine tuned to exactly what the company desires their food and drink to be. This can take years of practice to get right, and requires regular checkups to ensure your idea of the taste hasn’t deviated.

For those who do get to this point, though, they get the potential of a career where their primary job is to taste chocolate, coffee, or something else for 8 hours a day and then go back home. Not a bad gig, if I do say so myself.

In terms of actual salary, the number will vary based on experience and training, as well as where you are located. According to job listing aggregate site SimplyHired, a job in the category of “coffee tasting” has an average of $80,000 per year. For wine, that number could fall into the range of about $71,000. There are even “master tasters” of ice cream that reportedly make six figure salaries, although these are usually folks who have been in their jobs for decades.

My field of study in school was sensory science, which involves not just training these tasters and monitoring their results, but also analyzing them and interpreting them to help make better and more consistent-tasting products. In that field, the average salary is about $76,000.

These pay figures obviously come with time and experience factored in, so while you can’t expect to be making that much starting out, you could be literally using your palate to get into a relatively well-paying gig.

So, if cilantro does taste like soap to you, you may have that combination of both supertaster and the olfactory receptors that could prove invaluable to companies that want to make sure their products’ tastes never change. You probably want to get tested on these yourself (there are test kits available for cheap on Amazon), and also undergo palate training.

If you have that and a connection to the food industry, chances are you could find yourself landing one of those tasting jobs.

Illustrations: Sam Brosnan


Mexican Cilantro Now Banned In The US After Hundreds Got Sick


A ban on imported cilantro has been implemented by the Food and Drug Administration, KTLA reports. An investigation showed that some cilantro coming from Mexico was linked to hundreds of cases of intestinal illness in the United States.

The FDA stated that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified hundreds of cyclosporiasis outbreaks in the US that were linked to cilantro grown in the state of Puebla, Mexico, as far back as 2012.

Cyclosporiasis, an intestinal illness, is known to cause diarrhea and vomiting. It’s caused by microscopic parasite Cyclospora cayetanesis. The farms and packing houses that produce the cilantro have since been inspected, with five “directly linked” to the parasite and eight featured “objectionable conditions.”

Restrooms at the farms were lacking running water, soap and toilet paper. Human feces and toilet paper were found in the fields and the holding tanks tested positive for Cyclospora cayetanensis. Not good.

Without the proper documents, the FDA will not allow cilantro grown outside Pueblo into the US from April 1 through August 31.


Bao-ser’s Castle




Hate Cilantro? Blame Your Genes!

Ever wonder why some foods are just universally adored while others seem to have a more polarized set of opinions? Take cilantro for example. Proponents of this pungent green garnish are usually passionately approving of its taste whereas others (such as yours truly) simply abhor the flavor entirely.

Up until now, we’ve generally accepted a ‘different-strokes-for-different-folks’ explanation for this difference in taste and shrugged off this discrepancy as a matter of preference. It would now seem, however, that there is evidence to support that one’s cilantro disposition could be genetic.

A Study conducted by the University of Toronto of a sample of over 1,400 young adults showed a correlation between cilantro preference and certain ethnic groups. The study showed that individuals of an East Asian background (the segment in which I fall into) tend to dislike the garnish more than most with 21% expressing their dislike of cilantro. People of  Middle Eastern ethnicity appear to be more fond of cilantro with roughly 3% of that segment declaring their distaste for the herb.

While there appears to be a definite correlation between ethnic background and a propensity toward cilantro, it has still yet to be determined whether or not there is a specific gene that creates an aversion to cilantro in certain individuals.

[via Gizmodo, Flavour]

[THX and Photo Credit to Wikimedia Commons]


Adventure: Pie-ology

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Kogi BBQ Truck Reveals a Sourdough Grilled Cheese Short Rib Sandwich

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Bacon Garlic Herb Shrimp Taco

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Z Pizza: Triforce Pizza

If you are a pizza lover and your mouth hasn’t made its way to a Z Pizza before, your tastes buds are missing out! Z pizza is a true Southern California based chain which originated in Laguna Beach! All of their pizzas are made to order with fresh and healthy ingredients!  The dough is made from 100% organic wheat flour, hand-thrown and fire-baked daily for its unique crispy crust. They have award-winning skim mozzarella from Wisconsin, organic tomato sauce, MSG-free pepperoni, and additive-free sausage! Check out these delectable pizzas after the jump!