Caffeine lovers are more likely to enjoy their daily cappuccino, latte or Americano when there is less noise around them, new research has found.
In experiments, coffee was perceived as having less aroma by people who were fed loud noise through a pair of headphones while they drank.
Coffee was also more likely to be perceived as expensive and of a higher quality when people were played gentle background noise, as opposed to loud background noise.
Loud noise also had the effect of masking its natural sweetness – meaning it could have the knock-on effect of coffee lovers adding more sugar to their beverage.
Cafes that want to accentuate the quality of their coffee could provide noise-cancellation headphones on tables in a Heston Blumenthal-like twist.
Urban noise can affect food and beverage experiences and possibly consumption, the multinational team of researchers suggest. Coffee tasted particularly less bitter and was perceived as having less aroma under loud noise, they found
The research shows why coffee can often be more pleasurable when drunk in a quiet spot outdoors than in a packed food hall or busy cafe.
'The results suggest that a loud noise tend to reduce the overall sensitivity of the coffee experience, and this is most clear concerning the bitterness and aroma intensity,' said the study authors in their paper, published in Food Quality and Preference.
'When the participants were asked to rate each coffee tasting experience, individually, they tended to rate the same coffee as significantly less bitter, and as having a less intense aroma, when tasted with the louder noise.'
The researchers, from Ecuador, Colombia and Norway, asked 384 volunteers to drink coffee in a room while wearing headphones.
Experiments took place in a room inside the campus of Universidad de las Américas in Quito, Ecuador between July and September 2019.
The coffee sample was a blend of Arabica green beans, medium roasted and harvested from the Ecuadorian highlands, and prepared by a professional barista with a percolator.
The room where the study was carried out. Participants weren't told they were drinking the same coffee when they listened to both quiet and loud background noise
Each participant drank the same coffee twice, either while exposed to a loud or quiet version of the same background noise of a food court.
None of them were informed that they were actually tasting the same coffee twice.
The headphones played chatter either at a very noisy level of around 85 decibels or much quieter at less than 20 decibels.
85 decibels is around the same volume as a vacuum cleaner, while 20 decibels is barely a whisper.
For the quieter sounds, participants were tested with https://soundcloud.com/sonictaste/sets/background-noise-experiments.
Active noise cancelling headphones use technology to generate their own sound waves that cancel out exterior waves, while passive rely on the sound-blocking materials with which they are made.
After each tasting, participants were asked to answer questions related to flavor attributes, such as sweetness, bitterness, acidity and flavour intensity, as well as their willingness to pay for the drink, in the form of a questionnaire on a Samsung tablet.
Dummy head holding the headphones with sound level meter (D). This questionnaire was accessed via Wi-Fi network on a Samsung tablet (A)
Below is a sample of questions for participants after they'd tasted the coffee with both loud and quiet