I wrote about the experience of having covid, me and my whole family, in a recent blog post; with this writing focused more on how it affected tea experience.  I mentioned “covid tongue,” or taste impact, in that post, but I can go further with how it transitioned across the 10+ days of experience.

First Days – Oblivious

For the first couple of days I was ill enough that I didn’t notice a difference in sense of taste beyond what a flu causes – experience in general seeming hazy and off. Around the third day, when the initial loss of energy was just starting to ease up and the sore throat was the worst, an odd experience of a metallic taste occurred – even without any tasting experience occurring at the time, without even drinking plain water.

First Week – Covid Tongue Onset

Then over most of the next week the main “covid tongue” theme occurred, a relatively complete loss of sense of taste. It included tongue-based flavor (even the sense of sweetness was diminished), and also aromatic compounds dropping out, which is common with colds and flus. The degree was interesting; I couldn’t tell the difference between the tea I drank in the morning and hot water.  Then after a few days it was interesting how that sensation would partially return in the evening; I could get a clear but limited sense of the taste of what I was drinking.

Author’s family members wearing masks, sitting and waiting at the hospital

At the hospital with two covid patients, the day before I came down with it

Second Week

On the 11th day from the start of symptoms my tea still barely tasted like anything in the morning. For the first time I chose a tea based on trying to drink something higher in quality that may have a better health impact (kind of a random guess, that part); going back to drinking above-average sheng pu’er, even though I knew that I’d not be able to taste it. For the final two days more significant flavor input is coming through the Covid tongue.

Strong Teas and Flavors

Across the week I kept drinking teas that would’ve seemed suitable for that range of experience.  Shu is nice for experiencing during illness, it seems to me – so rich and earthy that a little might come across the Covid tongue; or at least the style somehow seems to match. Early on I drank a musty, over-fermented aged sheng version to get rid of it and take advantage of not tasting it, and I cleared through some gaba versions. Later I was drinking more intense, only moderately-aged sheng versions in the hope that part of the taste might blast through in a positive way. That actually worked; drinking a 2015 Dayi Jia Ji tuocha version would’ve normally been such an intense experience that it would require using short infusion times and light infusion strength to moderate it, but with this limitation I could brew it a bit strong and then get a sense of that heavy mineral and rich woody, smoky, or toffee input (not exactly any of those, but towards those ranges).

Variation and Appreciation

People in tea groups tend to comment that they couldn’t imagine losing the sense of experience of tea that they value so much, but for me it’s normal to take different kinds of breaks, or to vary what I experience to keep it fresh. During vacations I’ll switch to grandpa style brewing or an imprecise Western approach, and drink more basic teas during that time. I’ve even taken breaks from tea—just not recently—since I changed to moderate input volume to get to a similar end point and to avoid long-term exposure issues.  

It’s too bad about losing that normal tea experience, but I was much more concerned with being healthy again, about other aspects coming up from this running even longer. I tried going for a light run before I was really recovered in case bumping metabolism rate somehow helped, and it did seem to have a positive impact on recovery; but I ended up napping a couple of times later that day to restore my energy level.


Of course I drank lots of tisanes over that first 10 days. Maybe that helped and maybe it didn’t; hard to say. The hot liquid at least had a temporary soothing effect. A Chinese-Malaysian friend recommended drinking coconut water, which I only tried after recovery was well underway, since I had not been out shopping at all for two weeks (the longest gap since the pandemic started). It’s a great time to have a lot of chrysanthemum tea on hand, to use as a filler or basis for other tisanes. In the past I’ve enjoyed masala chai as a good match for illness experience, which can work with tea and tisanes mixed as a base, but I ate a good bit of heavily spiced oatmeal with fruit instead this time.

Of course I’m wondering how long this could last, when my sense of taste will fully return. Unlike most people who do as much with the theme of tea as I do, I’m not that concerned; I could take a month break. It’s not tied to any business theme, and the reviewing gets to be a bit much anyway. You don’t fully appreciate what you’ve got until you lose it, so it will help me in that sense, tied to not taking tea experience for granted.

Two Weeks Later

With breakfast the last day of editing this I tried nearly the last of a Farmerleaf sheng cake I have around, and I think most of that experience came across (this was two weeks after the first day I experienced symptoms). I may not be at full sensitivity this coming weekend several days away, but I’ll probably try out reviewing again anyway. Food is back to being enjoyable too; that’s nice.


It would be good if I could include advice to people who get covid, about how to clear it fast, or to minimize these kinds of symptoms. Try everything, I guess: Lots of rest and fluids, take vitamins, drink tisanes, eat oranges, and drink coconut water if it’s around. My son had Covid first and I made a huge pot of chicken soup for him and the family, and it was really nice for me to have that myself two days later. A nasal rinse seemed to help a little; it’s familiar to us to use saline and a syringe for that, to offset illness effects and clear nasal passages after swimming to avoid infections.

Author’s daughter, her face mostly obscured by a superimposed image of a Haz-Mat suit

The subject is serious, but since we all had it I tried to keep my kids from being too fearful

A friend going through her third round of Covid mentioned getting some sun. That would add vitamin D input, which is supposed to help; but I suspect that just resting doesn’t ramp up metabolic activity enough to really get you past it and getting sun might help restore a more normal metabolism. For the first few days complete down-time probably is best, but it really seemed to help to get my body up and moving after a more normal energy level returned. She recommended not getting drained of energy reserve, which goes without saying, but given how Covid saps your strength balancing that part can be unique.

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