Many people avidly consume foods and drinks containing caffeine, despite its bitter taste. Here, we review what is known about caffeine as a bitter taste stimulus. Topics include caffeine's action on the canonical bitter taste receptor pathway and caffeine's action on noncanonical receptor-dependent and -independent pathways in taste cells. Two conclusions are that (1) caffeine is a poor prototypical bitter taste stimulus because it acts on bitter taste receptor-independent pathways, and (2) caffeinated products most likely stimulate "taste" receptors in nongustatory cells. This review is relevant for taste researchers, manufacturers of caffeinated products, and caffeine consumers.
Keywords: TAS2R43; bitterness; caffeine; taste; taste receptors.