Taste is the sensory quality that belongs to the element of water. Plants are the life-form belonging to the element of water. Taste thus reflects the energies and elements that operate in a particular herb.
Cloud water originally has no taste, but all tastes are latent in it. These are gathered as it falls, as it passes though the five elements in the atmosphere and takes on their qualities.
Ayurveda recognizes six main tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. These derive from five elements; each taste is composed of two elements. Sweet taste s composed of earth and water; sour of earth and fire; salty of water and fire; pungent of fire and air; bitter of air and ether; and astringent of earth and air.
Sweet taste is basically that of sugars and starches. Sour taste is of fermented or acidic things. Salty is of salt and alkalis. Pungent is the same as spicy or acrid, and is often aromatic. Bitter is of bitter herbs like gentian or golden seal. Astringent taste has a constricting quality, as herbs that contain tannin, like oak bark.
Though the six tastes transmit the properties of the five elements, they are all based on the element of water, which manifests them. It is only when the tongue is wet that we recognize taste.