The 5 Basic Elements of Flavor & the Role they Play in Flavor Making

500 million years ago amoebas were just beginning to develop the ability to taste things… For these proto-proto-proto-humans, taste was an evolutionary tool. Sensing tasty prey in the ocean around them, and then devouring that prey with gusto was necessary for survival! Today, having a sense of taste isn’t quite so life-or-death. But, we’d argue, it’s still pretty darn important to the basic enjoyment of life.

When we’re crafting new flavors, it is a homage to our amoebic forefathers… Okay, you got us, we’re just messing with you! We do take flavor making pretty seriously though. It’s a science and a delicate balancing act weaving complementary and unexpected aromas together to form irresistible end-products. Our flavor makers have a deep understanding of the five elements of taste. Also, they really like food.

But back to the elements of taste! Did you know that you can actually taste all five flavors on every part of your tongue? Yup. Myth-debunked. In case you’re curious what those flavors are, here’s a run-through of the five basic elements of taste:


This one is life-or-death! Well, sorta. When something tastes bitter, it’s your tongue’s way of warning you: that’s poison dude. A little bit of bitterness, of course, is okay. Bitterness can add a lot of interest to a dish, and in moderation, is healthy. Antioxidants, which are helpful to your body’s metabolism, are the culprit for the bitter taste that you experience when eating delicious things like dark chocolate and coffee.

dark chocolate


A little salt is divine, too much and it becomes disgusting. Once again, our tongue is helping us out! This is the body’s way of making sure we maintain the level of salt it needs to function. However, salt lovers beware. The more you eat, the more your palate adapts to the flavor. So, even if you think something isn’t salty enough, it probably is ??at least if you live in North America!



Sour is a mysterious one. Scientists haven’t quite figured out exactly how or why it works. They have suspicions though! Some say sourness exists to signal when food is starting to decompose and potentially hazardous to eat. This could explain why yogurt is sour. But what about lemons? Mysterious indeed.



Sugar why you taste so sweet? Because sugars are the foundation of the food chain and provide a valuable source of energy, so your body has made sure that you love that stuff. Eating sweet foods is an elemental pleasure, but these days, there is an overabundance of sugars in our foods so it’s easy to overindulge.



Umami is just kind of fun to say. It’s also Japanese for “delicious taste”! Umami is the result of certain amino acids, and most describe it as a savory experience. It’s certainly a rich flavor ??often released by cooking, curing or aging foods. The perfect example of umami would be an aged cheese… Or cooked tomatoes! Ya, it’s versatile.


At VanGo, we’re passionate about all of the flavors… We don’t discriminate! Whether you have a sweet tooth, can’t get enough salt, love that dark chocolate, put lemon and lime on everything or could live off of cheese alone, we have a flavor to please your palate!

Find your flavor here.

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