A Tea Addict's Journal

Immune to bitterness

January 30, 2007 · 6 Comments

Among the many side effects of tea drinking, especially young puerh drinking, is that I don’t really taste bitterness as acutely as before. It was obvious when I tried the Banzhang Zhengshan that I bought recently, when I thought it was only mildly bitter while my girlfriend was screaming bloody murder. More obvious though is my recent taking of some cough syrup… I didn’t even need a chaser. It went down smoothly enough, with just a hint of bitterness and a rather mild nastiness from the fake cherry and whatever else flavour there is in there. I didn’t exactly squint. In fact, I don’t think it’s much bitter at all. I’m sure two or three years ago I would’ve thought differently, but I think now my tongue is more numb to the bitter taste…

Is that a good thing or a bad thing? It would seem to me that this is a bad thing, since it means I’m missing out on some flavours in a particular tea. What can one do to restore one’s sense of taste?

Categories: Old Xanga posts · Teas

6 responses so far ↓

  • HobbesOxon // January 30, 2007 at 5:57 am | Reply

    Don’t worry too much – I’m inclined to believe that you’re not losing the ability to taste quite so much as being accustomed to unusual flavours. You see it a lot with whisky drinkers and cigar smokers – though these might be bad examples, given that some tastebud damage might be occurring with alcohol and smoke. 🙂

    When I was a boy, I tried beer and thought “Hmm. Adults love this stuff. Yet it takes revolting. What’s it all about?” Five years later, and I was drinking it on an unfortunately frequent basis as an undergraduate, and thinking “Hmm. I love this stuff. It tastes delicious. What was all that about?”




  • Tombamboo // January 30, 2007 at 12:10 pm | Reply

    There are some of the population referred to as “super tasters” in that they have more taste buds than the general population and as such react accordingly, more than twice as frequent in women than men although it may be a simple case of  acclimation. Here is a link to a BBC article and a method of testing, otherwise just do a search for “super taster”

    In any case they react to bitter far more strongly than the rest



  • Phyllo // January 30, 2007 at 7:35 pm | Reply

    My wife is the better taster and smeller between the two of us.  On bitterness and acidity, I don’t notice them as much as she does, but maybe that’s because she’s less accustomed to drinking strong oolong/pu’er/black teas.

  • MarshalN // January 30, 2007 at 8:51 pm | Reply

    I think it definitely has to do with conditioning. I know I used to hate cough syrup, thinking they were nasty. Nowadays… I don’t really mind it so much anymore. It’s scary. I wouldn’t know if I were drinking some bitter poison pill.

  • lewperin // January 31, 2007 at 12:16 pm | Reply

    Yes supertasters exist, and yes, they are more sensitive to bitterness than the rest of us. But probably no human who’s interested in tea need worry about his sensory acuity; it’s only necessary to work at it, according to this study:

    The Human Sense of Smell: Are We Better Than We Think?

  • stevendodd // January 31, 2007 at 9:24 pm | Reply

    There’s a lot of things I’ve grown to love. I used to hate (American-)Chinese food, now I love it. I used to think beer was disgusting, now it’s the nectar of the gods (I don’t like wine, sorry Phyll :). Cough medicine… I don’t use medicine often so I’ve never gotten accustomed to it, but it’s not as bad since it tastes like a shot of Jaegermeister. I don’t ever recall disliking Salt & Vinegar chips, mmmmm.

    It’s probably just conditioning. The more one has bitter tea, the more you won’t even think about it when it’s there.

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