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Taste-colour synesthesia

A subtype of gustatory-visual synesthesia


(This page only talks about colour concurrents evoked by taste. For cases where shapes are triggered by taste, see the page on taste-shape synesthesia. There is also more information on the general page on gustatory-visual synesthesia.)

 

Some synesthetes consistently see or perceive different colours when they taste food and drinks. These synesthetic colours can also have texture, motion and/or a spatial location. They can be opaque or transparent, appear as a mist, cloud, blob or other form or be a mix or pattern of two or more colours combined. They do not usually coincide with the actual colour of the food or drink in question and can often be totally different (lemon tastes light blue, kiwi tastes dark orange, etc.). However, they tend to follow an internal logic, so families of tastes could be different shades of the same colour: if the taste of coffee is blue, the different types and brands of coffee would usually be different shades of blue. Some synesthetes see the colours physically, appearing in front of their eyes as if on a screen (“projectors”), while others only perceive them in the mind’s eye or “know” what colour the taste in question is (“associators”). For some, all tastes without exception have a colour, while this is not the case for others. In any case the colours are consistent and do not normally change throughout the synesthete’s lifetime. It is a fairly uncommon type of synesthesia (more information on the page on gustatory-visual synesthesia in general). Finally, it appears that for most of these people colour concurrents are not only triggered by taste but also by smell (olfactory-visual synesthesia), as the two senses are closely related.


Here are some cases, descriptions and representations of taste-colour synesthesia:


“My English teacher (…) brought me a special chocolate from Canada. I didn’t eat it straight away, I waited until I got home. Suddenly, the whole lounge turned orange and red… like a cloud. I painted what I saw.”

(Artist Miren Karmele Gómez, in her blog sinestesia.eusOriginal in Spanish.).


What colour is the taste of coffee?

Here are some answers gathered from different people with this type of synesthesia:

“When I drink coffee, it is like a purpleish burgundy”

“Coffee tastes green”

“Bad coffee has a thin, slippery, red aftertaste”

“It's a very light reddish-brown color, with a browner, lighter color swirled in. ”

“Purplish-red and grainy.”

(Source: This post on the online debate platform Reddit/Synesthesia. 2014.)


The case of researcher and synesthete Sean Day: 

1. Tastes and colours and 2. A recipe for light cyan blue.

 

This is an example of some of the colours he sees.

(Source: Sean Day on his website)



He created this recipe combining chicken, orange and vanilla ice cream, admittedly more amusing than appetising, but for Sean it is the best way to see a beautiful light cyan blue. It only works for its author: even for other taste-colour synesthetes it would create different chromatic results. He also pairs it with some blue-tasting drinks, which in this case are light wheat beer flavoured with lemon and red wine.

The recipe is included in the study Where are all the synaesthetic chefs?by C. Spence, J. Youssuf and O. Deroy, which suggests that this kind of peculiarities are one of the reasons why it is difficult to find many gustatory-visual synesthetes among the world’s top chefs, even though it would logically be the ideal profession for them, given their special sensitivity and intuition in this field.


Sean Day, of Trident Technical College (USA), is an anthropologist and researcher specialising in synesthesia research. His website has a lot of information with links to studies, books, articles and other reliable resources. He is the author of the book Synesthetes: A Handbook and has collaborated on many others, also founding The Synesthesia Listan email forum for synesthetes, researchers and other people with an interest in the subject, which has been running since 1992.


Go to the page on taste-shape synesthesia


Go to the page on gustatory-visual synesthesia in general


Go to the page on olfactory-visual synesthesia (smell-colour and smell-shape)

This page is about taste-color synesthesia

This page is about taste-colour synaesthesia

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