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

Fast Food Restaurants Technology

Taco Bell Takes A Strong Stance Against Machines Replacing Jobs

Photo: Jeepers Media

In a world where several fast food companies are looking to technological advancements to cut costs and take over jobs in the workplace, Taco Bell is going against the status quo.

The fast food giant has declared their staunch opposition to ever using automation and technology to replace workers in their restaurants.

This comes in stark contrast to rival fast food companies that are looking to replace jobs with automation. McDonald’s recently unveiled kiosks that would replace jobs at the front of restaurants nationwide, and Wendy’s aims to do the same in 1,000 of its restaurants to reduce labor costs by 5%.

Taco Bell spokesperson Matt Prince states that the basis for this unique modern view came from what the chain learned when they tested out their “restaurant of the future” twenty-five years ago, which included an impressive automatic taco robot that produced 900 tacos per hour.

Taco Bell’s “Automatic Taco Machine,” developed in the 1990s and no longer in use. (GIF courtesy of Taco Bell)

“We tried it, and learned that you can’t get away from the human element that restaurants have.”

Taco Bell’s CEO, Brian Niccol, reiterated that position while speaking on a panel during Edelman’s Trust Barometer event.

“The caveat on technology is that tech is only as good as the experience that a team member creates. It’s an enabler for managers and team members to create a better experience.

If tech brings people together, good things happen. If it separates people, bad things happen…. A team that communicates face to face is much stronger, and technology brings teams together.”

Taco Bell has learned its lesson from past experiences, and values the team member experience over production capability. Prince told Foodbeast that if Taco Bell decides to implement technology, it will not be to replace employees, but to “enhance the team member experience” by replacing tasks and responsibilities so that employees can focus on key aspects like food quality, food safety, and the cleanliness of the dining room.

“As a business that’s fueled by the energy and passion of people serving people, our team members are our front line and biggest brand ambassadors,” says Frank Tucker, Taco Bell’s Chief People Officer.

So will Taco Bell go high-tech? Yes, but not as high-tech as other fast food chains. While other chains may entirely be run by robots one day, Taco Bell doesn’t want to lose the human element of their restaurant, as they’ve already learned the consequences of doing so in their own tests.

As Prince puts it:

“People who work in the restaurants matter.”