In yet more evidence that most people are slack-jawed suckers, Jeff Rossen of Today recently set up a blind taste test in a New Jersey mall. He asked people to taste two cups of coffee. One was cheap deli coffee that would retail for a buck, and the other was "fancy, gourmet" coffee for which we Americans regularly pay over $3 a cup.
The overwhelming results? Americans preferred the taste of the cheap coffee.
A full 67 percent of testers liked the cheap stuff better. When Rossen blind tested Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer, and Al Roker, all three of them preferred the cheap coffee.
Just what's going on here?
Perhaps it's just more evidence that human beings are easily hoodwinked by something other than taste when we select our food and drink. Furthermore, we are willing to pay extortionist prices for that ineffable je ne sais quoi. Call it the snob factor.
Fifteen years ago, researchers at the University of Bordeaux dyed a white wine red and found that people started describing the wine with words typically applied to red wines, like "berry-flavored" or "woody." They were tasting with something other than their tongues.
Further proof that entrenched beliefs can trump actual taste was Steven Spurrier's famous Judgment of Paris, in which a California wine, Stag's Leap, beat out a French Bordeaux in a blind taste test, shocking the old-school wine world. The long-held thinking that French wines were obviously superior to California wines was turned upside down as soon as blindfolds were placed over the judge's eyes.
The bottom line is that sometimes, people just want to prove how sophisticated they are and how much they know about the matter at hand, be it beans, grapes, roasting, fermenting, regions, aging, or whatever. Give humans stuff to buy that will show their erudition and they'll jump at it. And allow us to pay more for something we don't really like as much? We'll do that too.
Can we interest in you in some very pricey pommes frites crafted from a ritzy French potato we just discovered in the Languedoc? They're fried to perfection in duck fat and lucre. You might prefer McDonald's fries, but those won't reveal you to be the knowledgeable and sophisticated eater you know you are.
Hey, it could be worth the price.