London - If you must have a cup of tea after a fry-up, or can’t have a steak without a glass of red wine, science is on your side.

Researchers say there is a reason why people the world over pair sharp, acrid tastes with fatty flavours.

They say that just as hot and cold are at two ends of the temperature spectrum, astringent and fatty foods are opposites when it comes to texture.

And just as cold water cools hot water, sharp tastes counter some of the greasiness of fatty ones, leaving a rather pleasant feeling in the mouth.

Paul Breslin, an oral biologist, said: “There are pairings in gastronomy around the world, such as the pairing of red wine with meat or a steak. In Japanese cuisine, having a little bit of ginger on the side of the plate serves as a way of cleansing the mouth between bites of fatty fish.

“The mouth is a magnificently sensitive sensory organ. The way foods make our mouths feel has a great deal to do with the foods we choose.”

He showed that drinks such as tea, while only mildly tart on the first sip, feel more astringent with each mouthful. He had volunteers drink tea and water in between taking bites of a fatty meat and it clearly showed that tea helped more to counter the fatty feeling left in the mouth by the meat, the journal Cell reports.

Professor Breslin, from Rutgers University in New York, said: “The opposition between fatty and astringent sensations allows us to eat fatty foods more easily if we ingest astringent with them.”

He believes that astringent foods and drinks work on saliva to “dry” the mouth, cancelling out the slippery feeling created by fatty ones. - Daily Mail