Tasting with our Eyes (Kyle Abbot)

After burning my taste buds from that French Pressed bilge water, I wondered, “How on earth could this stuff pass a focus group?” It was clear to me that the contents were far from “Juicy” and certainly lightyears away from complex. How could anyone with a coffee-addled brain not fall for that?

However, as I thought about it, I realized how much adjectives really influence a consumers reaction to the product. Pick up any box of plain crackers and chances are, the product description on the back of the box will read, “Our *organic* wheat crackers are made with the *freshest* *naturally* grown wheat, raised in the organic sunlight. Our farmers’ environmentally friendly gluten-sucking extractor, er… “methods” offer you a *nutrient rich* source for nourishing your body and soul with a lightly salted, delightful crunch.”

A simpler version would simply say, “It’s Crackers. Only use orally.” I mean, you could really cut costs with all the ink you’d save! Nahhh… To me, the extra adjectives are needed as keywords with the purpose of resonating with positive feelings in the customer, automatically connecting that positive emotion to the product they are using/consuming. Though I’m aware of it, even I can’t help but notice the “crunch” more because of reading it on the box. Truly, I think the mind has a gigantic affect on how we view things, and can be influenced without knowing it.

The same is true for, yes… coffee! Back when we were getting into espresso with our moka pot and whirly grinder, we bought 2lb bags of coffee beans at Costco. Not just any coffee beans. Intensely Smokey, “Extra Bold” beans! (Meaning, burnt to a crisp) After getting that for a few months, I said to my dad, “Why don’t we try the Columbian or Rwandan coffee?” He, knowing as little as I did at the time, replied with, “No no. If we don’t like it, then we’re stuck with 2~3lbs of it. Let’s keep to these beans. See, read here. It said intensely smokey!” For someone who usually questions most of what he sees, he put an unusual amount of importance in those two words. “Papa” I said, “That has nothing to do with the actual taste of the product! They’re just… ‘feel good’ words.” “Yeah, but still…” Said he. He knew it, but I think he couldn’t help be influenced by the wording. He favors intense foods/drinks, so the wording really resonated with him in that.

Since then, we’ve moved on to other beans (without poetic descriptions) which has broadened our flavor perception. Though Papa always claims he can’t tell one batch from another, I think he’s already begun to distinguish different beans/grinds, especially without being swayed by the power of poetic keywords. Cashew mist, anyone?


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