c. 1300, "to touch, to handle," from Old French taster "to taste, sample by mouth; enjoy" (13c.), earlier "to feel, touch, pat, stroke" (12c., Modern French tâter), from Vulgar Latin *tastare, apparently an alteration (perhaps by influence of gustare) of taxtare, a frequentative form of Latin taxare "evaluate, handle" (see tax (v.)). Meaning "to take a little food or drink" is from c. 1300; that of "to perceive by sense of taste" is recorded from mid-14c. Of substances, "to have a certain taste or flavor," it is attested from 1550s (replaced native smack (v.3) in this sense). Another PIE root in this sense was *geus- "to taste; to choose."
The Hindus recognized six principal varieties of taste with sixty-three possible mixtures ... the Greeks eight .... These included the four that are now regarded as fundamental, namely 'sweet,' 'bitter,' 'acid,' 'salt.' ... The others were 'pungent' (Gk. drimys, Skt. katuka-), 'astringent' (Gk. stryphnos, Skt. kasaya-), and, for the Greeks, 'rough, harsh' (austeros), 'oily, greasy' (liparos), with the occasional addition of 'winy' (oinodes). [Carl Darling Buck, "A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages," 1949]
Sense of "to know by experience" is from 1520s. Related: Tasted; tasting. Taste buds is from 1879; also taste goblets.