Umami is the term that identifies the taste of substances such as L-glutamate salts, which were discovered by Ikeda in 1908. Umami is an important taste element in natural foods; it is the main taste in the Japanese stock "dashi," and in bouillon and other stocks in the West. The umami taste has characteristic qualities that differentiate it from other tastes, including a taste-enhancing synergism between two umami compounds, L-glutamate and 5'-ribonucleotides, and a prolonged aftertaste. The key qualitative and quantitative features of umami are reviewed in this paper. The continued study of the umami taste will help to further our general understanding of the taste process and improve our knowledge of how the taste properties of foods contribute to appropriate food selection and good nutrition.