Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Common Cold Interferes with Taste and Smell

Apologies for the dearth of updates. I have recently moved from Delaware to Philadelphia, which has been time consuming, and I have not kept up with updating all my sites. I will write more about the move later, as there are some tea-related points to moving! But for now, I want to write about another thing which has slowed me down a bit from writing about tea: I came down with a cold last week. Colds are mainly an annoyance. But when it comes to tasting tea, they are more than an annoyance, they actually stop me from being able to experience a cup of tea the way I normally do.

People often complain that their sense of taste and smell is changed when they have a cold, and that in general, they cannot smell things as effectively. A cold is an infection of the upper respiratory tract, which includes the parts of the nose which are responsible for our senses of smell. I find that when I come down with a cold, my sense of smell is often among the last things to return to normal.

I have a bunch of tea samples sitting in my cupboard, waiting to be tasted, but I feel they would be wasted for me to drink them until I'm 100% better.

Teas I drink when I have a cold:

I do drink tea a lot when I have a cold, but my experience of it is rather different. When I am sick, it is primarily the hot fluid that I seek out. I find that I prefer strong-tasting teas, and I tend to not enjoy oolong or white tea as much. Often, when I am thinking of what tea to make, I'll reach for a usual favorite and then think: "No, I'll save that till when I'm well."

I often drink a lot of additional herbal tea in addition to the usual number of cups of black or green teas. Many herbal teas I find help with cold symptoms. Blends containing peppermint or eucalyptus can greatly clear out the sinuses, and I find those containing rooibos to help with breathing. There is also something pleasing about these strong aromas: even if my sense of smell is inhibited, these aromas are able to get through and I am able to experience a pleasingly aromatic hot drink. I also tend to seek out lemony herbs, and I tend to like to prepare them rather strongly. When I have access to a fresh supply of it, I will typically make teas from lemon balm, but here I have been drinking mostly lemon verbena (which I have found I enjoy more than lemongrass).

I also find that my sense of taste changes, in addition to smell. I tend to seek out salty foods, possibly because my body is losing more salt if I'm blowing my nose. I also notice that I often want to add honey to tea, especially when the cold is at its worst.

How does your tense of taste and smell change when you have a cold? And how does your experience of drinking tea change, and how do your choices of what teas to drink change?


  1. I hate when a cold gets in the way of enjoying a freshly brewed cup of coffee!

  2. I hope you like living in Philly - I really love the place. There is an excellent gelato place on Sansom, I think at the corner or 9th, my husband thinks it is the corner of 12th. best I have ever had outside of Italy. There are some interesting teas to be gotten in Chinatown. Especially in the underground grocery. There is a cool bus that I know you can catch at the art museum amd it drops you all over town for a smallish amount and you can get on and off for the same ticket. There's a good museum of the Meso-Americans near UPenn Hosp. The art museum has a wonderful tea house up on the top floor. Best of luck moving, settling, get used to a new life. Marlena