What to brew for a friend with no sense of smell?!

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wabichajin
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Thu Dec 14, 2017 12:11 am

So, I find myself in the interesting situation of preparing a gong fu session for a small group of friends, one of whom has no sense of smell at all. :? :shock: :o

What the heck should I brew?!? I was thinking some kind of deep, dark heicha, but fermented teas can sometimes be challenging for newbies... At any rate, I have an extensive enough tea cabinet to provide most every genre, so I'm up to try any suggestion you guys might have. Any ideas? :idea:
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Chingwa
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Thu Dec 14, 2017 7:32 am

I lost my sense of smell once, temporarily. It totally affected my sense of taste as well, making it difficult to enjoy the true flavor of tea for sure, but even affected strongly flavored food.

I suspect a round of Gong Fu cha, which I assume you're doing the whole ceremony thing, should be quite enjoyable as an activity despite not being able to smell or fully taste the tea. I would perhaps try choosing a tea based on mouth feel, rather than aroma or flavor/strength, if that makes any sense?
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_Soggy_
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Thu Dec 14, 2017 9:48 am

A strong shu would have some nice texture and enjoyable if you miss the subtleties. I think a strong sheng could also work if you get some bitterness/spicyness. Those two don't rely on smell as much I don't think.
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Brent D
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Thu Dec 14, 2017 10:14 am

Thats a tough one!
I think you'd have to take into consideration what everyone else in the group would like. Are the other drinkers versed enough to handle a really thick shu? If so, that would be my choice.
wildisthewind
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Thu Dec 14, 2017 11:28 am

Definitely be conscious of mouthfeel, and try to choose a tea with very strong Qi.
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Baisao
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Mon Jan 01, 2018 12:44 am

wabichajin wrote:
Thu Dec 14, 2017 12:11 am
So, I find myself in the interesting situation of preparing a gong fu session for a small group of friends, one of whom has no sense of smell at all. :? :shock: :o

What the heck should I brew?!? I was thinking some kind of deep, dark heicha, but fermented teas can sometimes be challenging for newbies... At any rate, I have an extensive enough tea cabinet to provide most every genre, so I'm up to try any suggestion you guys might have. Any ideas? :idea:
So, I realize that this comment may come a bit late but I am just now seeing it and commenting should this come up again.

I recently lost my sense of smell in its entirety. This is documented in detail here.

Virtually everything you sense as flavor happens because of smell receptors in your nose, not your tongue. Your tongue will only taste: bitter, salty, umami, sweet, and sour. It can also feel astringency, texture, and warmth.

This means that shou or aged sheng will taste like warm water to someone with complete anosmia. Those deep, dark flavors are not likely to be tasted. That floral high mountain oolong you may love, will taste like warm water.

Based upon my personal experience with complete anosmia and continuing to drink tea throughout the experience, this is what I recommended: focus on savory flavors, and textures like slip and types of astringency.

Japanese teas that have a lot of umami, sweetness, and astringency to them would be ideal as they could experience all three of those characteristics. You may look for Japanese teas with inzatsu breeding lines as these have genetics that can make them even more astringent but also have an amazing bouquet for those with all of their olfactory senses.

Something malty and thick like an Assam might also work reasonably well.

Lastly, some high mountain oolongs from fall and winter have a pleasantly thick texture (slip) and a velvety, delicate astringency. Other guests would be wowed by the fragrances, while the anosmiac could enjoy the textures of the tea.

Cheers!
.m.
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Mon Jan 01, 2018 7:58 am

I would recommend a tea with a strong lingering aftertaste. For example young sheng or wild puerh (ye sheng cha). Some Japanese greens might do the trick as well.
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wabichajin
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Thu Jun 10, 2021 2:50 am

Baisao wrote:
Mon Jan 01, 2018 12:44 am

So, I realize that this comment may come a bit late but I am just now seeing it and commenting should this come up again.

I recently lost my sense of smell in its entirety. This is documented in detail here.

Virtually everything you sense as flavor happens because of smell receptors in your nose, not your tongue. Your tongue will only taste: bitter, salty, umami, sweet, and sour. It can also feel astringency, texture, and warmth.

This means that shou or aged sheng will taste like warm water to someone with complete anosmia. Those deep, dark flavors are not likely to be tasted. That floral high mountain oolong you may love, will taste like warm water.

Based upon my personal experience with complete anosmia and continuing to drink tea throughout the experience, this is what I recommended: focus on savory flavors, and textures like slip and types of astringency.

Japanese teas that have a lot of umami, sweetness, and astringency to them would be ideal as they could experience all three of those characteristics. You may look for Japanese teas with inzatsu breeding lines as these have genetics that can make them even more astringent but also have an amazing bouquet for those with all of their olfactory senses.

Something malty and thick like an Assam might also work reasonably well.

Lastly, some high mountain oolongs from fall and winter have a pleasantly thick texture (slip) and a velvety, delicate astringency. Other guests would be wowed by the fragrances, while the anosmiac could enjoy the textures of the tea.

Cheers!
So... Embarrassingly enough I find myself stunningly late to my own party. However, Baisao, your perspective was incredibly enlightening after the fact. It turns out that my friend reacted most positively to an extremely thick and syrupy though bitter young gushu sheng. It was truly a challenging experience, but very eye-opening. As you mention, it's really incredible how much of our sense of taste is olfaction in disguise! If I can track down a Japanese tea with "inzatsu" heritage, I'll definitely keep it on hand for future chakai. One thing, I've never heard that terminology used before, even here in Japan. Could I ask you to explain that a bit more in-depth?

Thanks to everyone else who weighed in, and apologies for my extended absence from the forum. I am doing alright!
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Baisao
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Thu Jun 10, 2021 9:49 am

@wabichajin - I'm glad it was helpful even after the fact.

Inzatsu lines are Japanese tea varietals that were crossed with assamicas. They will have more aromatics but also more bitter compounds. Thés du Japon will identify which varietals are inzatsu since most of their teas are unblended varietals. Benifûki and Inzatsu-131 are notable inzatsu varietals. You may not have encountered the term because so many teas in Japan are blended and put less focus on varietal characteristics. It's probably something that has only been important blenders.

A brief search turned up this, from the owner of Thés du Japon:

"From the Meiji era (1868-1912), tea became an important industry in Japan as an export product. Many efforts were being made by the government to improve the culture of sencha. Thus began the mechanization of production, and from the last quarter of the 19th century began the study and the creation of cultivars. It was at the beginning of the 20th century that Yabukita was created. But before that, the government had set up a project to conserve the genetic variety of plants, and thus tea plants, which led to bringing back to Japan the seeds of many tea – plants from the various producing countries, starting with China, India and Sri Lanka. Thus, the first “inzatsu” variety (abbreviation of “indo-zasshu” 印度雑種 “, or Indian hybrids), crossbreed of indigenous varieties and Indian varieties are developed. These are the” Tada inzatsu varieties ” from Tada Motokichi多田元吉which was sent to China and India to bring back seeds, then to create these hybrids in view of production of Japanese black tea. Benihomare is the most famous, it will be a century later the parent of Benifûki."
-- Florent; https://japaneseteasommelier.wordpress. ... -cultivar/
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Balthazar
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Thu Jun 10, 2021 11:48 am

Very interesting stuff. Thanks for bumping the thread @wabichajin, and to @Baisao for the original post
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wave_code
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Thu Jun 10, 2021 3:04 pm

both these threads are really interesting... especially during allergy season :?

I've trained a bit and can focus on things more than people who haven't and have certain notes I'm very particular about, but I don't have the most sensitive palette in the world to begin with - I'm certainly not a supertaster. I've always had allergies, horribly strong ones as a kid, and I think this plays a part in not having the greatest sense of smell. I've been thinking about maybe this is why I favor the kinds of teas I do since they tend to focus on 'lower' notes and body and texture. Brighter teas that are more floral or fruity or have more going on in the nose/aroma typically don't interest me. Part of my looking more into TGY and similar high roast oolong is finding that its an aspect of that tea I can enjoy much more- the sourness, oily texture, it cuts through for me. When I'm sick or the pollen is out in full effect its usually my go-to because I find I can still taste it the most.
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