The Effects of the Bitter Flavor

My Experience with Bitter Coffee

How do you relate to the bitter flavor? Do you crave it from your coffee, love it in dark chocolate, or perhaps, need it from your Brussels sprouts?

I have a love-hate relationship with the bitter flavor. Its taste is striking and distinct, yet harsh and brass at times too. 

For many years, I would enjoy a double espresso first thing in the morning, no cream or sugar. It was how I loved to usher in my day. I would take with me a skip in my step and a deep chill in my bones. That chill wasn’t normal. I would be freezing for hours if not all day. 

It took me almost two years to realize that the chill wasn’t me “being a female.” It was the coffee! Those bitter coffee beans were acting as a cooling agent to my entire system.

It now made sense why Chinese medicine recommends we not consume bitter, or raw foods during the colder seasons because they are cold in temperature. In the cold weather, we want to consume warmer foods since we no longer have exterior warmth from the sun.

The bitter flavor is the only flavor of the five flavors that is cooling or cold. The other five flavors are either neutral, warm, or slightly cool. You can read about each of the other four flavors by clicking on the flavor: salty, sour, sweet, pungent

Have you noticed feeling cold after a cup of coffee or green tea? Or perhaps you feel a slight chill after eating Brussels sprouts, broccoli, or lettuce. I have a friend who rarely eats bitter celery because she swears it makes her cold! Can you imagine her validation when I told her about the temperature of the bitter flavor? Her instincts were right all along!

The bitter flavor as medicine

We can use the cold temperature of the bitter flavor medicinally. It is known to be antipyretic, or a fever reducer. We can also use the bitter flavor in food and herbs to clear heat from the system like feeling hot, redness, sore throat, and even heart palpitations, intestinal pain, and hacking cough.

This flavor is also an expert in reducing accumulations in the body. These accumulations can manifest as swellings and the build-up of cholesterol within arteries. I think of the bitter flavor as distinct and sharp. Its sharpness cleans arteries and reduces fat accumulation. 

The bitter flavor is also drying, which aids in reducing swelling such as bloating and edema.

We must take care and caution around the bitter flavor too. The extremely cold nature of the bitter flavor can also decrease circulation, causing cold hands and feet. This is the effect I experienced after my morning espresso. When we consume too much of the bitter flavor, we will experience its drying nature. This can cause a reduction of fluids in the body and can manifest as dehydration, thirst, dry skin, fatigue, and lack of clarity to name a few.

The bitter flavor also has a predominant purgative and descending nature. This is the reason why many people consume coffee. The strong bitter flavor in coffee helps people to descend and purge the bowels. We also enjoy cruciferous vegetable for this same effect. They too stimulate the peristaltic activity of the intestines to clean and move the bowels. It’s no mistake that Chinese medicine assigns the Small Intestine to the bitter flavor!

Chinese medicine also assigns the bitter flavor to the Heart. As mentioned above, the bitter flavor helps keep the arteries and blood vessels clear of excess and accumulation. This property is similar to the antioxidant effect we hear so much about. 

Bitter foods are all around us. You may be eating or drinking them regularly and not even know it! Reference the list of bitter foods to enjoy and incorporate in your weekly meal planning.

Bitter Herbs: Burdock, chamomile, chicory, echinacea, dandelion, dill, green tea, hops, white pepper, yarrow, valerian, 

Bitter Greens: Alfalfa, asparagus, arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, dandelion, kale, romaine lettuce, rye, scallions, radishes greens, rhubarb

Bitter Fruits: Cranberries, bitter melon

Bitter Grains: Amaranth, quinoa

Other Bitters: Cacao, coffee

I hope that you found this information useful, but most importantly I hope that you choose bitter foods to keep yourself healthy and well!

I hope you found this information useful. If you have any questions or comments, please leave a reply down below.

As always, stay curious!


Disclaimer: This information is intended for general reference only. It is not a replacement for professional health advice. The content in this post intentionally does not provide dosage information or possible interactions with prescription drugs or other medications. Please contact a certified health practitioner such as a physician of Oriental Medicine or Herbalist before considering use. To schedule an appointment with Malerie, visit the services page.