Exploring Taste: Sweet, Sour, Salty, and Bitter

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Updated on Apr 10, 2014


Young children will become aware of and have the opportunity to experience the four basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter.

Research Questions

Can you identify the four basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter? Can you recognize these tastes in a variety of foods? (This makes a nice “taste” component for a larger project on the five senses.)


Amounts will vary if more than one child participates in the project. The materials used below are suggestions; substitute foods as you see fit.

  • Twelve small containers
  • One spoonful of sugar
  • One mint candy
  • One spoonful of honey
  • One lemon wedge
  • One pickle
  • One spoonful of plain yogurt
  • One spoonful of salt
  • One salted potato chip
  • One bit of parmesan cheese
  • One bit of unsweetened baker’s chocolate
  • One spoonful of decaf coffee
  • One piece of grapefruit rind

Experimental Procedure

  1. Put one food item into each small container.
  2. Place all the containers on a table.
  3. Taste the sugar. This is SWEET!
  4. Taste the lemon. This is SOUR!
  5. Taste the salt. This is SALTY!
  6. Taste the baker’s chocolate. This is BITTER!
  7. These are the four basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter.
  8. Now taste each of the other foods, and decide which of the above four tastes it’s most like. Place the foods with similar tastes next to each other. (You will probably come up with four groups of three foods each: three sweet things, three sour things, three salty things, and three bitter things. If not, that’s okay; the important thing is that you are exploring the sense of taste.)
  9. All flavors are made up of some combination of these tastes. Try tasting other foods. Where would you place them among the twelve you began with?


Five senses, sense of taste, sweet, sour, salty, bitter

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