There are some things in life that just haunt you. For some, it’s that Annabelle doll from ‘The Conjuring.’ Or it’s the presentation you have to make in front of your bosses. Maybe it’s a marathon you’re running in the weekend.
What keeps me up at night? One question:
IS MILK SWEET OR SAVOURY?
Let me get this straight - I’m lactose intolerant and a seasoned non- milk drinker. I’ve always thought it was revolting. But as I watch my brothers guzzle it like there is no tomorrow I can’t help but reminisce on my youth, where I too would share a casual cup of milk (usually forced by mum to give me #strongbones.) And I always arrive at the same question…
IS MILK SWEET OR SAVOURY?
You put it in tea and coffee, both of which aren’t sweet unless you add sugar. BUT, you dip cookies in it and add it to cereal, both of which you would never equate with savory flavors. It’s all a big mind fuck really.
So finally, I’m trying to get to the bottom of it.
First up I took it to my personal Instagram. I made a story asking “is milk savory or sweet” with a poll and it caused a storm in my DM’s as people started to realize that they too didn’t know.
The final results were 51% for sweet and 49% for savory.
So basically this poll told me nothing except for that everyone is as confused as me.
Next, I took it to you guys (also, I gotta try and be all science-y and make this a fair test and all that shit don’t I?) I posted the same question on the Shit You Should Care About instagram page.
This time 57% voted for sweet and 43% for savory.
You guys also sent in some pretty good responses.
These results seemed a little bit more conclusive, but I still wasn’t convinced, I needed to know more.
GETTING TO THE BOTTOM OF IT:
Wanting a more solid answer, I went where everyone goes to find their information these days - Reddit. Here’s one of the explanations.
Reddit User cptskippy says this:
“Sweet and Umami (savory) are not mutually exclusive tastes. There are 5 tastes which are Umami, Sweet, Salty, Sour and Bitter. A food can consist of all 5 tastes (e.g. Ketchup) or only one. However, Umami, does not exist alone but occurs with another taste (e.g. Soy Sauce is salty and umami). This doesn't answer your question at all.”
Ahhhh but it does cptskippy!
The 5 tastes are: Sweet, Salty, Sour and Bitter and Umami.
Now I’d be able to describe to you all of these tastes except for Umami - so I did some digging, hoping that this secret taste was the answer to my question there. And I think it was.
Umami was discovered in Japan, and it’s kinda hard to explain. It’s an essentially “savoury” taste that adds delicacy to something.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Rather than giving a specific taste, like sour or sweet, Umami serves as a signal to the body that we have consumed protein. Sensing umami triggers the secretion of saliva and digestive juices, facilitating the smooth digestion of protein - Umami is the indicator of something delicious (I’ll never know how people associate milk with the word delicious, but okay.)
And it’s in milk?
Umami is most commonly found in meat, tomatoes, seaweed, green tea and cheese (the older the cheese the more Umami) and milk.
Both cow and human milk have free glutamate (glutamate that’s free from any amino acid.). Breast milk has 22 mg of free glutamate per three and a half ounces, and cow milk has two. So the taste we are experiencing when we drink milk and don’t know whether it’s sweet or savoury it’s actually Umami!
Umami is a really important taste for newborn babies too, so breast milk is rich in it! Umami is a familiar taste to all of us from birth, even if we don’t know it.
So there we have it. It’s not sweet, or savory - the taste you’re experiencing is umami.
I’m still not going to drink it though.