Of the five basic tastes, I find bitterness to be the most interesting—not only from an ingredient perspective but also looking at our behavior in response. In most recipes, we usually try to avoid tasting bitterness, and, as cooks, we’ve developed various ways in the kitchen to make the taste more palatable by trying to reduce it, cover it up, or remove it entirely.
A cup of work-from-home coffee has a predetermined lifecycle: You pour a steamy mug of joe, set it down next to your laptop to refrain from burning your tongue, and before you know it, an hour has passed and your coffee is stone cold. You pop it in the microwave to nuke it for a few seconds, press the cup to your lips and grimace. It’s bitter. Bitter in a way that makes you wonder if someone poured a Romeo and Juliet-style vial of poison into it.
On a purely scientific level, though, coffee really shouldn’t be all that popular. After all, its taste is objectively bitter, and bitterness has served as an evolutionary warning to the human body of harmful substances since mankind’s existence.