The idea for the study came to Australian researcher George Van Doorn who was told by Barista Lavazza, one of the biggest coffee restaurant chains, that "when coffee is consumed from a white, ceramic mug, it tastes more bitter than when drunk from a clear, glass mug".

Van Doorn and his colleagues put the theory to test by offering 36 volunteers coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk in three different coloured mugs - white, blue and transparent.

People who drank from the white mug rated the coffee as more intense and less sweet than when served the same beverage in a blue or transparent cup.

"These results support the view that the colour of the mug should be considered by those serving coffee as it can influence the consumer's multisensory coffee drinking experience," Van Doorn pointed out.

The authors concluded that colour contrast between the coffee and the white cup offers one explanation for the results: When coffee was perceived as darker it could influence how people found the taste to be stronger.

The results of the study were published in the journal Flavour.

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