cilantro on a orange and white ombre background to show the genetic changes in the taste of cilantro

Experiment: Genes & Supertasters

Have you ever wondered why some people love spicy food while others can't stand it? Or why some people are extremely sensitive to bitter tastes? It turns out that our genes play a big role in determining our taste preferences and abilities. In this blog post, we'll explore the fascinating world of genes and supertasters, and even conduct an experiment to see how many taste buds you have!

Download Printable Worksheets (7th Grade & Above): Teacher MaterialStudent Material

Download Printable Worksheets (6th Grade & Below): Teacher MaterialStudent Material

Why do we like certain foods over others?

Our genes give us instructions on how our bodies work, including what we like to eat. Some people don’t like the taste of cilantro because of a special part of our genes that helps us smell things. We are born with our own taste preferences, but we have to learn more about smells as we grow up.

Why is taste important to life?

A long time ago and even now, our sense of taste helps us stay healthy and alive. Our ancestors used taste to tell if food was safe to eat or if it might make them sick. Taste also helps our body know when we need more energy or fluids. So, it’s really important!

What are supertasters?

Some people are called “supertasters” because they can taste things really strongly. This means they might really like some foods, and really not like others. Supertasters have a special type of genes and more taste buds, which makes them more sensitive to bitter foods.

Non-tasters are people who have low likes and dislikes for different foods because they are less sensitive to flavors. They have the AVI genotype. This is where the cilantro debate comes into play.

Taste buds by count:

  • Normal: 15-30
  • Supertaster: > 30
  • Non-taster: < 15

How can a non-taster become a supertaster?

Some people can’t taste things as well as others, but a special protein called “miraculin” in Miracle Berries can help them taste more flavors. People who can’t taste things as well might not be as happy with their meals as those who can taste more. We can use Miracle Berry to help enhance or change our taste buds. The berry is magic for your tongue!

While there is a lot of science to the Miraculin, the above diagram simplifies the process. When you eat Miraculin, it attaches to your taste buds (red molecule). When the sour (green molecule) goes for your taste buds, the Miraculin acts as a barrier and will change shape when the sour touches it! The Miraculin then tells all of the taste bud part below, "Wait! This is actually a very sweet food!" instead of "Wow! This is so sour! Make sure you pucker your face with this one."

Experiment Time

Test if you are a supertaster, non-taster or normal.


Hypothesis: if ______, then ______.

Write your hypothesis on how many taste buds you think you will have and which kind of taster you are

Materials Needed
  • 1 Blue Regular Lollipop, blue is the best color to show your taste buds. You can also use blue food coloring
  • 1 Sour Lollipop or any sour candy
  • Pieces of paper cut in squares with a hole punch in the middle, just big enough to fit on their tongue
  • Scissors
  • Magnifying glass or phone camera
  • 1 mberry Miracle Fruit Tablet
Procedure Part One
  1. Get in groups of two and one person completing this at a time
  2. Begin eating blue lollipop or add a couple drops of food coloring to their tongue and have them spread with a finger
  3. Once your tongue is entirely blue, put the piece of paper on your tongue towards the front
  4. Have you partner count the amount of taste buds you have in that circle. You made need tissues because of drool
  5. Switch turns!

Conclusion: How many taste buds do you have?

Procedure Part Two
  1. Open your sour lollipop/candy and see how sour it truly is by tasting

  2. Open and place an mberry tablet on your tongue and use it similar to a mint. Be sure to move the tablet all around your tongue for a few minutes until dissolved or soft to chew

  3. Now you can taste you sour candy/lollipop

  4. Record your thoughts and reactions

What happened? Did you and your experiment buddy have the same number of taste buds? Was one sour candy sweeter than the other? Or did you experience sourness?


This activity covers several CCSS standards, including:

4-LS1-1: Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.
4-LS1-2: Use a model to describe that animals receive different types of information through their senses, process the information in their brain, and respond to the information in different ways.
5-LS1-1: Support an argument that plants and animals are made of cells, which have structures and perform functions that sustain life.
5-LS2-1: Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.

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