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If your cup of Joe tastes more bitter or sweet today, don't blame your coffee-making skills. New research shows the color of your mug might change how you perceive the flavor.

December 11, 2014

You probably don't put much thought into all the mugs you've acquired over the years, but new research suggests the one you choose to fill up in the morning has more power than you think. Namely, the color of the mug may influence how sweet or bitter the coffee tastes to you, according to a new study in the journal Flavour.

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Researchers completed separate studies where two different sets of volunteers were asked to rate the flavor of a cafe latte. In the first study, 18 people drank from a white porcelain mug, blue porcelain mug, or transparent glass mug, and answered taste questionnaires. In the end, those who sipped from the white mugs deemed the taste to be significantly more intense than those who were served from the clear glass mugs.

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To make sure the texture and shape of the cups wasn't to blame, the researchers then had 36 people drink the same coffee beverage from glass mugs with either a white rubber grip, blue rubber grip, or no grip at all. Turns out the color white still made a difference. Participants rated the brews served in the white glass mugs as significantly less sweet than those in the see-through or blue glass mugs.

Turns out, the idea for the study came about when the researchers heard a barista mention he observed the effect (so this probably won't surprise your favorite Starbucks employee). But how does it work? Researchers suspect that the contrast between the mug color and the beverage works to influence how you perceive the intensity.

The takeaway: If you like bold, intense coffee, make a white mug your go-to. But fans of more mild, or sweeter brews should pick a darker mug since there's less contrast.

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