Taste Buds and Smell
You have several thousand taste buds on your tongue. Taste buds are actually tiny nerve endings that allow us to perceive different tastes, including salty (i.e. french fries, peanuts), sweet (i.e. cotton candy, strawberries), sour (i.e. shock tarts, lemons), bitter (i.e. black licorice, radishes), and umami (a specific taste in meat.)
Another major component to taste is smell. By smell alone, you can often tell the difference in foods or beverages; while without smell, it can be difficult to distinguish between different tastes. You may notice this when you have a cold or stuffy nose and food does not seem to taste normal. As you get older, you tend to lose taste buds and your sense of taste weakens. Taste buds can be dulled or even damaged if they are irritated by extreme heat or cold, infections, a dry mouth, smoking, spicy foods, extremely sour foods, and some medications. Fortunately, damaged taste buds can heal, so your sense of taste is not lost.