Meet Umami: The 5th dimension of taste

Meet Umami: The 5th dimension of taste

umami sour salty sweet taste zones

What is umami?

Umami is a Japanese word created in the 1900s. Translated, it means “delicious”, “rich flavour” and “pleasant and savoury”. Scientists later identified umami taste receptors on the human tongue in 2002.

As for the flavour, Umami is the core fifth taste, alongside sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. By itself it’s hardly noticeable. Umami is more of a balanced taste, and more about the overall flavour of the dish.

Umami in matcha green tea

You already know the benefits of drinking matcha, but let’s dive deeper into why its taste is so addictive.

Green tea contains a large amount of glutamate. This is an amino acid that contributes to the pleasant and savoury umami taste. Together with the also-present theanine, this combines to create the umami taste in green tea.

Want to make the experience even stronger? Use first flush tea or first harvest teas. These are made from very young tea leaves, picked early, and containing more umami flavour.

Matcha is made from tea leaves grown in the shade. Blocking the sunlight helps preserve amino acids, which not only stops the development of bitterness but also increases the flavour of the green tea plant. In turn, this creates the extra-rich sweet umami taste.

Discover find more information about green tea and umami taste:

Add umami to your dish by using MSG

MSG is short for monosodium glutamate, a food additive commonly used to enhance the flavour. It’s super popular in Asian cuisine, and increasingly in the West.

It’s a crystalline powder, similar in appearance to table salt or sugar. MSG combines sodium and glutamic acid, two key components that contribute to this umami flavour.

Sprinkle just a few mg of MSG on your food, and you can make it more savoury, more umami. This increased flavour means you’re less likely to add salt – an added bonus to your healthy lifestyle!

MSG umami seasoning monosodium glutamate monosodique
MSG umami seasoning

Umami food examples

Besides green tea, many other ingredients and dishes contain an umami taste. What are some examples of umami food or examples of umami taste? We provide a list:

  • Tomatoes: One of the best plant-based sources of umami. A balanced savoury-sweet taste which increases when ripened or dried.
  • Mushrooms: Another great source of plant-based umami flavour. Like tomatoes, drying can significantly increase the umami flavour. Dive into umami with dried shiitake mushroom, Shimeji mushroom, Enoki mushroom, Truffles, or Shiitake mushrooms.
  • Seafood: A common source of glutamate and inosinate. Bonito fish, tuna, sardines, mackerel, cod, shrimps… just a few examples with a relatively high percentage of umami taste.
  • Meats: Like seafood, meats naturally contain glutamate and inosinate. Dyeing or ageing the meat increases the umami flavour, particularly with bacon, dry ham, pork, beef and chicken.
  • Aged cheese: Contains a high level of free glutamic acid due to the ageing process. Cheeses which have been aged the longest (such as Parmesan) typically contain the most umami favour. Others are Compte, Cabrales, Roquefort, Emmental, and Gouda.
  • Soybean foods: Have a high level of glutamate that creates the balanced flavour. For example, soy sauce, miso, soybeans.
  • Others: Seaweed, Marmite, oyster sauce, garlic, corn, potatoes, green peas.
umami flavor examples infographic

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