10 Acquired Tastes

Coffee smells great, but its bitter taste is an obstacle for many people at first.

There's one in every crowd -- a person with a penchant for eating something that completely grosses everyone else out. Perhaps it's your co-worker who sits at the break room lunch table, blithely scarfing down liver and onions while the rest of the group gags in his direction. He simply raises an eyebrow and remarks, "It's an acquired taste."

When you acquire a taste for something, it means you've learned to ignore the food's perceived negative qualities in order to enjoy its benefits. Maybe you've learned to ignore the texture. Or perhaps you're blocking out its smell. You may even be able to stand a not-so-tasty taste, if it gets you something you need or want. For example, coffee tastes bitter, but for many people, the caffeine fix it provides outweighs its bitter flavor.


Or, perhaps you learn to like something because you've heard it's good for you (ugh, spinach). And sometimes you learn to like something out of necessity. If all you can afford to eat are Ramen noodles, then you'll learn to like Ramen noodles.

We've been thinking: What are some of the most common acquired tastes? Read on to see if you've acquired the ones on our list.

10. Raw Oysters

Most people either love raw oysters or think they're revolting. It's rare you hear someone say, "Eh, they're OK, I guess." Whether you like the delicacy or loathe it usually boils down to whether you can deal with the texture, or "mouth feel," of the raw oyster. For example, I think raw oysters look like a wad of mucous served on a rock. But many people find them tasty. Most raw oysters are served with lemon juice, cocktail or hot sauce, a vinegar-based shallot sauce, and crackers..


9. Coffee

Do you know anyone who declared, "Ooh, delicious!" the first time they tried black coffee? Chances are if you're a coffee drinker, when you started drinking it, you paired it with lots of milk and sugar to counteract the bitterness. And, as you got older and more accustomed to the taste, you probably cut back on the sweet stuff and appreciated the coffee taste more.

But what attracted you to that cuppa joe in the first place? For many people, it's the ritual of drinking coffee that's important -- the smell, the time you spend drinking a cup each day (perhaps at breakfast or after dinner). And of course, the caffeine buzz has something to do with it.


8. Alcohol

Alcohol, much like coffee, is a taste many people acquire because of the "benefit." With coffee, you get a caffeine boost, and with alcohol you get a buzz, right? If you do drink alcohol, think about the gateway booze you first drank before you'd acquired a taste for it. Was it Boone's Farm? Peach schnapps? Wine coolers? Jello shots? Notice the one thing these all have in common is that they're sugary and they mask the taste of the alcohol. But today, you might enjoy a nice expensive glass of pinot noir. Congratulations, your taste has matured. Now how about a martini? Shaken, not stirred.


7. Kimchi

Not only does kimchi have a strong odor, but it's appearance is rather bloody.
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish. It's quite spicy and made of fermented veggies like cabbage, radishes, onions or cucumbers. It's served with just about every Korean meal. Kimchi's taste is hot and pickled, and it also gives off a pungent odor. But it's a good idea to acquire a taste for this traditional dish because it's low in calories, has virtually no fat and is jam-packed with vitamins, carotene and fiber. It also aids in digestion. Some people say it even helps prevent cancer.


6. Anchovies

Singer Tori Amos once said, "I know I'm an acquired taste. I'm anchovies. And not everybody wants those hairy little things." We agree! About the anchovies, anyway, not about Amos -- she's fine.

Some people won't let anchovies within 3 feet of their pizza, and some people just love them. Anchovies have a very strong, very salty fish flavor. You might hate the taste of them on their own, but anchovy paste actually does add a lot of flavor to certain dishes, like Caesar salad. By the way, did you know that anchovies aren't really hairy? Those "hairs" are actually bones. Yikes.


5. Olives

Like anchovies, olives are another controversial pizza topping. Some people can't stand them. Other people love them -- whether they're green, black, Greek, marinated or stuffed. Olives can be oily, salty, sour and bitter, which, for some people, makes them difficult to stomach.

Why do we dislike bitter flavors? Well, we're actually genetically programmed to have a negative reaction to bitter tastes to protect ourselves. Many times a bitter taste indicates something is poisonous or otherwise dangerous to our bodies. So when we decide we "like" something that tastes bitter, like the flesh of an olive, we're ignoring that warning signal in order to enjoy the olive for its other flavors.


4. Lutefisk

OK, lutefisk probably isn't a super popular dish, so you may not have even heard of it. But we simply can't talk about acquired tastes and not bring up lutefisk. Lutefisk is dried cod that's soaked in a lye solution, then soaked in water, and then boiled or baked and served with butter, salt and pepper. Some say it has the consistency of gelatin. That's right -- gelatin. And it also has a very strong smell. Norwegians traditionally serve it at holidays, like Christmas.


3. Haggis

Haggis is a traditional Scottish food. Contrary to what some people might think, haggis not an animal. You don't shoot, kill and eat a haggis. No, haggis is more of a potpourri of things -- lamb's heart and lungs, beef or lamb trimmings, onions, coriander, water, oatmeal and suet. And it's all cooked up tidily in a sheep's stomach. A taste for true haggis can't be acquired in the United States because the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) bans any food made with lungs. Darn.


2. Vegemite

Very popular in Australia, vegemite is a paste made from yeast extract, with veggie and spice flavors added. The yeast extract is a byproduct of beer manufacture. It's an extremely good source of Vitamin B, too. Enthusiasts usually eat Vegemite -- and the similar British product Marmite -- on toast. Vegemite is salty with a consistency similar to peanut butter. It can also be used to enhance the flavor of soups, stews and gravies.


1. Blue/Bleu Cheese

Blue cheese is definitely an acquired taste. It's been described with such varied words as "ammonia," "funny," "too strong" and "ew." The blue in blue cheese is actually mold. Blue cheese was originally produced in caves, where mold grew on the cheese as a natural occurrence. In fact, historians believe blue cheese was an accidental discovery. Who knew mold in cheese would taste so good (once you've acquired a taste for it)? Blue cheese comes in different forms -- the blue cheese dressing you get with your chicken wings, crumbly blue cheese, and creamy Gorgonzola. It also runs the gamut from cheap to expensive, depending on how and where it's produced.

Curious to learn more about tastes and food? Check out the links on the next page.

Acquired Tastes FAQ

What does acquired taste mean?
When you acquire a taste for something, it means you've learned to ignore the food's perceived negative qualities in order to enjoy its benefits.
Can you develop a taste for something?
You can develop taste for something. Taste buds and your sense of taste change throughout your lifetime, and this means that you can develop taste over time or at a different time in your life.
Why are some tastes acquired?
Acquired tastes can take time to get used to, and people often need to "get past" or overlook something in order to adopt that taste or preference. So, "acquired" refers to the taste being adopted rather than inherent.
Is coffee an acquired taste?
Coffee can certainly be an acquired taste. Because it's often bitter and strong, people tend to develop a taste (or preference) for coffee as adults or after drinking it a few times.
Is beer an acquired taste?
Beer can certainly be an acquired taste. With strong flavor that ranges from sweet to hoppy to sour, beer is often a drink that people come to enjoy only after tasting it multiple times.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Ehler, James T. "Blue Cheeses (Bleu Cheeses)." FoodReference.com. 2010. (Aug. 15, 2010) http://www.foodreference.com/html/artbluecheese.html
  • Flint, Jessica. "The Right Way to Eat a Raw Oyster." Vanity Fair. Feb. 4, 2009.(Aug. 15, 2010) http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2009/02/the-right-way-to-eat-a-raw-oyster.html
  • Itoh, Makiko. "Acquired tastes, and the pleasures of acquiring them." Just Hungry. Dec. 20, 2008. (Aug. 15, 2010) http://www.justhungry.com/acquired-tastes-and-pleasures-acquiring-them
  • "Love It or Hate It: 10 Ways to Eat Kimchi." Shine. Aug. 5, 2010. (Aug. 15, 2010) http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/food/love-it-or-hate-it-10-ways-to-eat-kimchi-2236438/
  • Rowe, Peter. "Acquired tastes." SignOnSanDiego.com. Mar. 25, 2009. (Aug. 15, 2010) http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2009/mar/25/lz1f25tastes183355-acquired-tastes/
  • Scattergood, Amy. "Haggis Update: Sorry, Folks, The Real Stuff's Still Illegal." LA Weekly. Feb. 1, 2010. (Aug. 15, 2010) http://blogs.laweekly.com/squidink/shopping/haggis-united-states-import/
  • Stradley, Linda. "History of Lutefisk (Lyefish) - How To Make Lutefisk." What's Cooking America. 2004. (Aug. 15, 2010) http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/LutefiskHistory.htm
  • Stradley, Linda. "History of Vegemite┬« - Vegemite Sandwich Recipe." What's Cooking America. 2004. (Aug. 15, 2010) http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/VegemiteHistory.htm
  • "Veggie of the Week - Acquired Tastes." Edhat.com. 2010. (Aug. 15, 2010) http://www.edhat.com/site/tidbit.cfm?id=1596
  • Zuker, Charles S. "Researchers Discover How Bitter Taste is Perceived." HHMI. Mar. 10, 2005.(Aug. 15, 2010) http://www.hhmi.org/news/zuker7.html