How Your Cup's Color Changes the Taste of Your Drink

By Jessica Hullinger

In the mood for a cup of hot chocolate? Do yourself a favor: Drink it from an orange cup.

New research from the Journal of Sensory Studies says different colored cups can affect the perceived flavor of beverages. "The color of the container where food and drink are served can enhance some attributes like taste and aroma," said study co-author Betina Piqueras-Fiszman, a researcher at the Universitat Politècnica de València in Spain and the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

Piqueras-Fiszman and her colleagues asked 57 people to sip four samples of the same hot chocolate from different colored cups: White, cream, orange, and red. At the end of the experiment, all 57 participants said the hot chocolate in the orange and cream cups tasted better, with some reporting it was sweeter or smelled more aromatic.

What causes this perceived flavor enhancement? It's all in our heads. Presumably, orange and cream bring to mind warm, creamy flavors in a way that white and red do not. In the past, similar studies have shown that factors unrelated to taste, such as price and verbal descriptions of food, can affect how flavor is perceived. As Jesus Diaz at Gizmodo notes, soda is considered more refreshing when served in a blue can (perceived as colder than a warm red can), and coffee tastes stronger when in a brown package, tips manufacturers already use to their advantage. "The discovery demonstrates once again that our taste buds are definitely influenced by the colors our eyes perceive," Diaz says.

The findings shed light on new techniques restaurants could use to enhance patrons' dining experience. "More attention should be paid to the color of the container as it has more potential than one could imagine," says Piqueras-Fiszman. So next time you're out to dinner and order a hot chocolate, be sure to ask for it in an orange mug.

The Queen of Code: Remembering Grace Hopper
By Lynn Gilbert, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Grace Hopper was a computing pioneer. She coined the term "computer bug" after finding a moth stuck inside Harvard's Mark II computer in 1947 (which in turn led to the term "debug," meaning solving problems in computer code). She did the foundational work that led to the COBOL programming language, used in mission-critical computing systems for decades (including today). She worked in World War II using very early computers to help end the war. When she retired from the U.S. Navy at age 79, she was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the service. Hopper, who was born on this day in 1906, is a hero of computing and a brilliant role model, but not many people know her story.

In this short documentary from FiveThirtyEight, directed by Gillian Jacobs, we learned about Grace Hopper from several biographers, archival photographs, and footage of her speaking in her later years. If you've never heard of Grace Hopper, or you're even vaguely interested in the history of computing or women in computing, this is a must-watch:

Why Are Glaciers Blue?

The bright azure blue sported by many glaciers is one of nature's most stunning hues. But how does it happen, when the snow we see is usually white? As Joe Hanson of It's Okay to Be Smart explains in the video below, the snow and ice we see mostly looks white, cloudy, or clear because all of the visible light striking its surface is reflected back to us. But glaciers have a totally different structure—their many layers of tightly compressed snow means light has to travel much further, and is scattered many times throughout the depths. As the light bounces around, the light at the red and yellow end of the spectrum gets absorbed thanks to the vibrations of the water molecules inside the ice, leaving only blue and green light behind. For the details of exactly why that happens, check out Hanson's trip to Alaska's beautiful (and endangered) Mendenhall Glacier below.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]


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