I think there’s a couple of things to bear in mind.
First, everybody is different …. both physiologically, and in taste ‘education’.
Bear in mind, ‘taste’ is a basic chemical reaction, primarily (but not solely) in the mouth, and conventional wisdom is that we only taste 5 things, 5 ‘tastes’ …. sweet, sour, salt, bitter and savoury (umami). How we then ‘translate’ the relative tastes into lemon, or strawberry, or chocolate, beef, brussel sprouts or whatever-the-hell is where the education bit comes in.
Apparently, our sense of taste recognition can be trained. It’s a lot like learning to read, or even learning to see. We don’t “see” with our eyes. No really, we don’t. We see as a result of the neurons in the brain processing basic visual data from the optic nerves and then making sense of it and presenting it as what we ‘see’.
We then, as a species, communicate with each other via agreed standards. That tree over there - it’s green. Light or dark green? A given shade? We can compare to standarised colour charts but as even they are ‘seen’ by the brain, none of us (and I mean NONE) can be sure what others see in their minds. Think about colour blindness. Though that is apparently physiological, too.
Same for words. When we learn to read and write, we’re basically agreeing a standarised set of meanings associated with a complex combination of shapes, be those the letters of western languages, Cyrillic, Kanji, Mandarin, Arabic, whatever. This shape = that concept (tree, car, ocean, etc). Learn a foreign language = learn another set of shape to concept definitions (and sounds, of course). Then, mix it up by chucking in dyslexia. ;)
Well, taste works much the same way. A given combination of those basic ‘tastes’, like certain letter combinations, means lemon, or rubber, or chocolate BUT we each get a different combination because our mouths are physiologically different, and so is our experience of tasting lemon, chocolate and (shudder) rubber.
Now add in physiological differences. Our oral cavities (mouths) have, again according to medical convention, between 2000 and 5000 (see Wikipedia) taste ‘buds’, each of which can have 100 or more different chemical taste receptors. And, as we all have differing experiences of eating this, that or the other, we have different mixes of translation of those 5 elements into strawberry, chocolate, etc. I’m certainly better at identifying chocolate or strawberry than caviar or (thankfully, oyster). You, dear reader, may never have tasted a strawberry but love (shudder, again) oysters. And no, I don’t like them.
I think I’ve told this before but a friend of mine has very, VERY good taste. He loves tea, and hates coffee. If I make him a tea and a coffee for me (I drink both but probably 100:1 coffee over tea) he knows if the spoon I stir his tea with has been used in my coffee.
For ages, I thought he was winding me up. So for months, when we had a gaming session about twice a week, I ALWAYS made his tea first, only going anywhere near my coffee with that spoon after his was done. I kept tht up for a good 6 months. He never mentioned tasting coffee.
So one day, testing time. ;) I made his tea as normal, then made my coffee, then rinsed the spoon. Then I dipped the spoon in and straight out of my coffee, shook it vigorously over the sink to get any loose drops off, stuck the spoon in his tea, stirred twice and out.
I gave him his tea and said nothing. He took one sip, one ’effing sip, and said “You used the spoon in your coffee didn’t you?”
I kid you not. Not a word for months, and he got the taste of coffee instantly.
Me? I tried it. The wife did some blind tests on me and nope, no clue. I can’t tell. He can, and did. Just for clarity, thee is no other way he could know. He was in the spare bedroom with the computers, upstairs. Drinks were made downstairs in kitchen.
So, he can taste things I can’t, and the difference between us is NOT small.
Now, if he could detect lemon, or strawbwrry, or chocolate in his coffee (if he drank it) and I can’t, what does it actually tell me? That those ‘notes’ aren’t there, or are wrong, or that I can’t taste them? If I get a note that he doesn’t, maybe he doesn’t get lemon (or whatever) because he hates lemon and rarely tastes it. So we can both get, or not get, certain tastes or notes and it doesn’t mean either of us are wrong, beause we each taste what we taste, just like the shade of colour I see looking at a tree might well not be the shade he sees looking at the same tree but we’re both programmed to give it the same name.
Maybe I like coffee and he doesn’t because he has a far better developed ability to taste, oh, bitter for instance, than me, and that makes coffee much, MUCH more bitter to him than me.
Or, maybe his coffee ‘education’ is based on naff instant coffees and that is coffee to him, while mine is based much more on decent filter or dripper coffee, which is my taste (and background) in coffee. So his dislike might be physiological, or based on a differently programmed matrix of this blend of tastes of sweet, sour, bitter etc = coffee, whereas I’m programmed with a different set of matrix values because I drink differnt coffee. What does “coffee” taste like, anyway …. Nescafe instant, a good espresso, a bad espresso, Turkish? What?
Tasting notes are, IMHO, a broad guide to a coffee taste, but no more than a guide. A good and trained taster will be fairly consistent with their notes, but it means little to me since I’m neither good nor trained, and if I don’t get those notes it’s probably my failure. I just like tastes I like (including strawberry and chocolate) and don’t like what I don’t like (including oyster and rubber).
Final point - adding to the list of what affects taste …. altitude. Which is why airline staff taste wines for in-flight use at cruising altitude (about 30,000 feet), not on the ground. They taste different up there. Weird, huh?