It sounds crazy, but it goes to show how important colour is in our perception of the world.

Two researchers conducted experiments in which 57 participants had to evaluate samples of hot chocolate served in four different types of plastic cup. The cups were the same size, but different colours: white, cream red and orange, all with white on the inside. The volunteers said the flavour of the drink served in orange or cream coloured cups was better. The sweetness and smell were apparently not affected, but the flavour was.

The scientists say that orange isn’t a magic colour for all food – just for hot chocolate. The “best” colour for serving other foods or drinks would vary depending on the flavours. Other studies have shown, for example, that strawberry mousse appears to be sweeter and more intense on a white plate than on a black plate. For coffee, red seems to make the flavour and aroma stronger, while blue or yellow cups make the drink seem softer. Studies have also shown that the colour of background lighting affects how we taste wine.

“More attention should be paid to the colour of the container as it has more potential than one could imagine,” said one of the scientists, Betina Piqueras-Fiszman.

The results are relevant for those scientists interested in understanding how the brain integrates visual information. And for restaurateurs, it shows how important your dinnerware choices may be.

For retailers and advertisers, it highlights the power of colour in advertising – and the importance of choosing the right colours for your brand and ads.

The results were published in Journal of Sensory Studies last year by Piqueras-Fiszman from the Polytechnic University of Valencia and Charles Spence from the University of Oxford.

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