Why Your Drink Tastes Different Through A Straw

It's not an accident that so many people love straws. They really do make some drinks taste significantly better. There's a scientific reason for this, of course, and the good news is that it has nothing to do with plastic, since as The New York Times and other outlets have reported, more and more U.S. cities are banning plastic straws due to their deleterious environmental impacts. So grab your bamboo straw instead — or other biodegradable, environmentally friendly alternative — and sip along as we explain just what it is about this long, thin cylindrical utensil that so pleasurably enhances the beverage imbibing experience.

What's different when we drink through straws? According to Taste of Home, straws enhance flavor by more effectively changing the temperature of the drink in your mouth. There's some explanation required, but here's the gist: Instead of taking large sips (gulps even) of a soda or milkshake, the act of drinking through a straw reduces the amount of liquid you're taking in, and also reduces the amount of oral surface area the liquid is exposed to. These factors cause the liquid to heat up faster in your mouth, which is extremely important when it comes to the science of how we taste.

The science of straws

As it turns out, when we chew food or swirl liquids in our mouth, we release volatile organic compounds (aka VOCs), which, per Taste of Home, help to produce the aromas of the food or drink we're consuming. These aromas further intensify and become more complex as the food or drink heats up ... which will naturally happen to soda or milk or milkshakes since they're served cold, and the oral temperature of the average human is about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (via MedlinePlus).

But remember, the straw reduces the amount of liquid you take in, which means it heats up faster in your mouth and thus produces more complex aromas, which leads to enhanced flavors, since, as Science World notes, our sense of smell contributes mightily to our sense of taste. But that's not all. According to Fine Cooking, straws also improve air circulation in the mouth while you're drinking, which in turn leads to even more VOCs, more aromas, and more flavor. That's the genius of straws.