late 13c., "to touch, to handle," from Old French taster "to taste" (13c.), earlier "to feel, touch" (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *tastare, apparently an alteration of taxtare, a frequentative form of Latin taxare "evaluate, handle" (see tax). 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 (n.1) in this sense). For another PIE root in this sense, see gusto.
Taste buds is from 1879; also taste goblets.