We’ve long lamented over being served good coffee in ridiculous paper cups. But not everyone is coffee obsessive enough to review most of the espresso shots available in the city — and particularly the expectedly nasty ones. But today the Journal of Consumer Research published results from a study that asked, “Does coffee in a flimsy cup taste worse than coffee in a more substantial cup?”: Study Shows Touch Does Affect Flavor – Science – redOrbit. The answer to that question was “yes”. (Also: Does Touch Affect Flavor? Study Finds That How A Container Feels Can Affect Taste, Touch Can Trump Taste, According to New Retail Research from Rutgers School of Business.)

In a series of four experiments, the researchers discovered that people’s judgments of a drink’s taste and quality were influenced by the container in which it was served. The firmness of the cup was apparently a big indicator of quality and a better perceived taste, with people most sensitive to touch being influenced the most by the choice of cups.

To everyone who insists on serving their coffee in paper cups designed for the birthday parties of four-year-olds: stick that in your Solo and shake it. And to the cabal of inspirational quote spammers on the blogosphere: enough of that fake life yarn about so-called professors telling students that it’s the coffee, not the cup, that matters. Professors, of all people, are among the first to cite the research published in journals.
UPDATE: March 22, 2008
“That morning shot of espresso probably tastes better in an Italian, thick-walled cup than in a burn-your-fingers paper one,” opens this L.A. Times article on the same study: How’s that coffee feel? – Los Angeles Times.