That tea with the aroma you loved last time you had it now suddenly smells funny when you sniff the dry leaves. Well, it has been in the pantry awhile, but then you’ve also had a head cold. So now you’re asking yourself, “Is it me or the tea?” Determining which is at fault can help you have a better tea experience.
Things affecting the tea
The big factors affecting your tea and therefore its taste are bad storage conditions and age. Some delicate green teas will go stale and weak tasting after a few months, no matter how well stored. Other teas such as pu-erhs (which can actually get better with age) and black teas will last longer, some for years, but even so need to be stored properly. Blocking out light, air, moisture, and other odors are essential. Otherwise your teas could taste flat and weak or, worse yet, pick up odors from other items around them, especially other teas with strong flavorings like peppermint and cinnamon.
Things affecting your sense of taste and smell
Head colds and allergies are big culprits here and have a big affect on your olfactory perception of that tea you’re trying to enjoy. But they are not the only factors. Smell is affected by a variety of things, including strong odors around you. Anyone who has been trapped in a elevator with someone drenched in perfume or aftershave will know what I mean here. Taste, which is closely associated with smell, is thus affected by these same things plus what you eat. Bill Lengeman told me awhile ago that professional tea tasters avoid spicy foods, and it certainly sounds logical to me. I had noodle soup flavored with, among other things, onions and chili powder. I followed that up with some delicate green tea. The aroma and flavor were, well, not what I expected. In fact, I could hardly taste and smell the tea at all. In this case, I knew it was me, not the tea. Mouthwash and breath mints that you suck on can affect your taste, too. And that perfume or aftershave can be a culprit, not only affecting your smell but leaving a funny taste in your mouth.
What you can do
The obvious answer here is to store your tea properly and avoid things that affect your sense of taste and smell. Duh! But seriously, folks, enhance your tea enjoyment by staying healthy, buying quality tea, and investing in some proper storage containers and teawares. Enjoy!
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