Does your typical morning start with a steaming hot mug of dark roasted coffee, or do you prefer the homely taste of a traditional cuppa?

Whatever your predilection, your choice may depend on your genetics.

Scientists at Northwestern Medicine and the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Australia carried out a study to investigate the different ways in which people perceive the bitter tastes of coffee, tea and alcohol, and how this affects their choice.

While one might expect for someone who is particularly sensitive to bitter tastes to avoid drinks like coffee, the researchers found they were more likely to have a penchant for the caffeinated beverage.

In the study, published in ‘Scientific Reports’, the researchers analysed two large sets of data and concluded people who are genetically predisposed to having a stronger perception of the bitter taste of caffeine are more likely to be regular coffee drinkers.

“You’d expect that people who are particularly sensitive to the bitter taste of caffeine would drink less coffee,” says Marilyn Cornelis, assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University School of Medicine.

“The opposite results of our study suggest coffee consumers acquire a taste or an ability to detect caffeine due to the learned positive reinforcement [stimulation] elicited by caffeine.

“The findings suggest our perception of bitter tastes, informed by our genetics, contributes to the preference for coffee, tea and alcohol”.

The average British or Irish person is likely to drink 676 cups of coffee a year.

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