No More “Fishy” Tea Please

Vintage Collection – via Flickr CC Attribution License

Today, I tried puerh for the first time. It’s an experience I won’t soon forget!

A New Tea Experience

I decided to start the day with a new tea, something I had never tried before.

After several minutes of deliberation, I selected a puerh I had purchased a couple months ago from a teashop that sourced its teas straight from China. Therefore, I was expecting a rather unique tea experience, which I got, but not in the way I was expecting!

I was thinking that puerh would taste like black tea; it doesn’t. But, I didn’t know that when I sat down with my breakfast and cup of warm brew.

As I was eating my morning meal, I took a sip of puerh. Big mistake! I discovered that drinking puerh while eating peanut butter, banana and toast is not a good combo!

After I recovered from my moment of repulsion, I elected to finish my morning meal and then investigate the strange tea flavor in my cup.

Fishy Tasting Tea

Once breakfast was completed, I came back to my still warm brew and took another sip. That Ew! Factor was still there. In fact, I found the taste to be quite dreadful.

But, I really wanted to understand why I didn’t like the flavor, so I took another sip.

Then it hit me; my tea tasted fishy.

Not being a big fan of fish or any type of seafood for that matter, it made sense why I was repulsed by the taste.

Yet, I was also fascinated by how the tea leaves can acquire such a fishy flavor. It got me to wondering if puerh is grown near the ocean. Perhaps it’s where the tea is cultivated that makes it taste so strange. I guess I’ll have to investigate further.

I May Never Try Puerh Again

Despite my fascination with why tea would taste fishy, I just couldn’t bring myself to drink any more puerh.

I also found myself questioning whether I wanted to venture further into the world of loose tea. I’ve had bad tea, but never tea that had me literally wanting to run away from it.

Plus, I spent most of the day with a fishy-seaweed-like-taste in my mouth. My puerh experience certainly left quite an impression on my taste buds!

On the other hand, I do want to be more adventuresome and try new things. I’ve been fantasizing recently about traveling to far-off places to taste exotic teas. However, I don’t think I’d make very many friends abroad with that Ew! look on my face.

I guess, I’ll just have to put on my big girl panties and be prepared for new surprises, good or bad. That’s what makes life interesting, right?

This is “a girl with tea” signing off once again.

Remember to live, laugh, love and drink plenty of tea.

P.S. I haven’t given up on puerh yet! I’ll give it a try again someday…

Have you have had a tea that you strongly disliked?

25 comments on “No More “Fishy” Tea Please

  1. ugggg July 13, 2014 6:06 PM

    Just brewed 10 bags of Lipton in glass container. Drank. Gag! Smells like spoiled fish. Tossed out. Looked up, tea smells like fish, and came across Lipton tea complaints. Then came across yours. Once the tea is covered, wait ten mins. Uncover, to the aroma of rotting fish

  2. Dude in San Antoinio January 23, 2013 3:20 PM

    I just finished my taco salad from the local Tex Mex restauarant, and it was great.

    I have a big ice tea that I bought from them. I forgot that their tea tastes like a big watery helping of fish and seaweed.

    This is just plain wrong. Tea should not taste like fish.


  3. GP October 21, 2012 7:00 PM

    Further research has turned up this website:

    It seems that fishy odour and flavour in Puerh is a known problem called xing wei which can indicate poor aging and improper storage. Perhaps try another supplier. Canton tea co has been recommended by a tea aficionado friend of mine.

    • A Girl With Tea December 26, 2012 12:01 PM

      Thank you for the recommendation!

  4. GP October 21, 2012 6:51 PM

    Sorry for jumping in late to the discussion.
    I relatively am now to the world of good tea as I have been thoroughly anti-tea all my life. (Odd for a Brit but what can you do.) The main reason for this has always been that a cuppa made with any of the big brand black tea tastes like fish to me. I thought i was weird or something as no one else understood when i explained, nice to know i’m not the only one.
    I’m slowly finding that there are things i can do to improve the flavour. I’m using more expensive teas (a co-op brand loose Indian tea right now) and bottled water are helping. Tea in north wales was drinkable, tea from stoke-on-trent was not, tea from our new home pear Peterborough might was well have had sardines as an ingredient.
    I suspect that the water is at least partially to blame, natural organic compounds in the tea combine with calcium to form that scum we sometimes see on top of tea in hard water, perhaps this reacts with the milk? Perhaps there are some of us that are more sensitive to these compound than others. Maybe we occasionally get worse cups due to natural variations in the water supply. I’m not sure, but I am fascinated. With my modifications tea is becoming interesting and tasty.
    As for the Puerh, those kinds of tea are often fermented, i suspect you simply got a bad one, which is a terrible shame.

    P.s. sorry if my post seems stilted and formal, i’ve never managed to erase the language and tone from writing scientific reports from my writing style.

    • A Girl With Tea December 26, 2012 12:05 PM

      Thank you for the thoughtful post GP. I so agree that more expensive teas and filtered water do make a huge difference when it comes to quality of taste.

  5. Angela June 11, 2012 3:16 PM

    I have never tasted that type of tea, but I will say many teas in general have a “fishy” taste to them. Brewed plain Lipton’s decaff tastes and smells like fish. I have also found most any tea will taste like fish if consumed at the same time as consuming peanut butter. I have looked high and low for a scientific explanation, as I am positive one exists, especially now that I see I am not the only one experiencing this taste. Unfortunately, I have yet to find one.

    • A Girl With Tea June 15, 2012 10:45 PM

      How interesting! Thanks for sharing Angela 🙂

    • Axel P January 23, 2013 9:29 PM

      In my experience, some foods that taste fishy when they’re not supposed to are rancid. Not too long ago, I had a decaf green tea that tasted like fish. About half an hour ago, I chomped on a piece of tamarind that also tasted like fish. I’ve eaten enough tamarind to know it’s not supposed to taste like fish. If I remember correctly, rancid walnuts tend to have a bit of a fishy odor as well.

  6. Barney May 18, 2012 7:19 AM

    I was web-searching for ‘fishy tea’ and found your notes. a client from china gave me a tin of ‘colorful yunnan’ pu’er tea [most of the rest of the packaging is in Chinese]. it is compressed gold foil wrapped balls of loose tea. I find it is fine hot and fresh. BUT. here is my own strangeness – i am wont to make a big pot of tea in the morning, and use it for iced tea after breakfast throughout the day – okay, sometimes even into the next day. After the tea cools.. maybe over steeps… the fishy flavor really picks up in the brand i have. in deed it is weird.

  7. George H May 7, 2012 10:37 PM

    I always hated green tea, but for some strange reason I was bored and thought of drinking tea one night so I ended up remembering this old pack of green tea bags that I’d received as a gift a while back, they were around 5-7 years old since I tasted them once then threw them at the back of the cupboard not because of taste but unappealment. Anyways people change and I mysteriously fell in love with the tea, but the pack only had 16 bags that I had finished in around 3-4 days, so I went to the store but couldn’t find the same brand no matter how hard I look, so in the end I bought twinnings green tea and the tea tasted oh so different, tasted like pure fish with perfume. Bought a different kind and tasted like fish again, the tea I couldn’t find at any stores was Equita tea if anyone’s ever tasted it could they confirm the taste since the one I had was around 5-6 years old and probably tasted decent because of its age.

  8. carlos December 25, 2011 8:36 PM

    I have had a similar problem with Bigelow Green Tea. It was only with one of the sealed packs of 3, the others were fine. Today I had the same fishy taste with a regular Lipton tea bag. Don’t understand it. Like you i have no tolerance for fish.

    • A Girl With Tea December 26, 2011 9:27 PM

      Thanks for you comment Carlos! I’m glad I am not alone in my dislike of fishy tasting food and drink. Not sure why I have such an aversion to it…

  9. Andrew K August 26, 2011 7:32 AM

    Haha, I have just read your post while tasting Pu’er for the first time! Actually, to me it’s more the smell that the taste. The fishy aroma was exactly why I decided to Google it. A Chinese visitor to our company just made me a cup and when I said it smelled like fish she laughed as if I were a bit peculiar. Thanks to your post at least I know my senses are still working fine. As for the tea itself, I guess I won’t be making a habit of it. Cheers.

    • A Girl With Tea August 26, 2011 3:48 PM

      Thank you for commenting! I’ve tried two other pu’er teas since this initial experience. One was a flavored pu’er, which I found quite delightful. You can see the tea review here: Puerh Tea Review: Persimmon Tree Tea Coconut Cacao
      The second pu’er I tried was from Norbu Tea. I found this pu’er to be much less “fishy” tasting and rather quite enjoyable when prepared Gong Fu style (more tea and many short infusions, starting with about 10-15 seconds).

  10. Kevin March 14, 2011 9:46 PM

    I bought some Puerh tea (Numi brand) recently. My girlfriend and I tried it and reached the same “fishy” conclusion you did. First cup of tea I’ve ever given up on before finishing. It was THAT bad! I’m happy to have found this post and all the insightful comments. I had a feeling my experience was just a fluke. Thanks for sharing!

    • a girl with tea March 15, 2011 12:12 AM

      Thank you for your comment Kevin! I’m glad this post, as well as all the comments were helpful. You’re not alone in your “fishy” tea experience. I have some fresh puerh tea on hand now and plan to give it try soon. I am hopeful that I will have a more pleasant experience.

  11. Alex Zorach January 4, 2011 10:32 AM

    I would not recommend giving up on Pu-erh just yet. There’s a huge difference between raw or sheng Pu-erh, and ripe (also called ripened or cooked), or shu Pu-erh. Raw pu-erh is a green tea, which is then aged (it can be brewed directly without aging, although it’s very strong). Ripe pu-erh has been processed in a way to imitate the aging process.

    I’ve had ripe Pu-erh that I liked, but my favorite Pu-erh’s have without a doubt been raw pu-erh.

    If a tea companies just sells “Pu-erh” without specifying raw or ripe, sheng or shu, they’re probably selling the “ripe” kind.

    I would really encourage you to try sheng / raw pu-erh before giving up on it. On I’ve created a separate page for raw Pu-erh. Wikipedia also has some decent information on their page on Pu-erh.

    • a girl with tea January 5, 2011 3:46 AM

      Thanks Alex! I will have to give raw Puerh a try 🙂

  12. Brett December 31, 2010 2:55 PM

    I’m a big puer lover and have been for nearly ten years now… but I too have had the misfortune of fishy tasting puer. I later found out that the tea brick was purchased from a Chinese herbal medicine shop… which totally explained it because they have large bulk bins of all sorts of dried fish and seafood and pretty much everything in the store was tainted with a yucky fishy oder. I really recommend that you try a few better puer teas brewed by a more experienced Chinese tea lover. (If you’re ever in Seattle let me know as I’d be happy to host you.)

    BTW, this is just now my first time commenting your blog. I’m sorry it took so long as I really enjoy your writing-style and writing-voice.

    • a girl with tea December 31, 2010 9:42 PM

      Thanks for the wonderful comment about my blog writing style; you’ve made my day Brett! Also, thank you for explaining why my puerh may have tasted a bit fishy. I’ve always wanted to visit Seattle and when I do, I will be sure to look you up!

  13. latteteadah December 29, 2010 11:50 PM

    Sorry to hear your first adventure with pu-erh was a disappointment! It’s not a tea for “everyone” – but from what it sounds like, you may have gotten hold of an off-norm brand or type – like fine wine, there are good examples and bad examples, and when pu-erh is bad, it literally stinks! :P.
    It’s one of my favorites, though I acquired a taste for it by trying Teavana’s flavored loose Strawberry Slender first before venturing into the pure varieties of other brands. The fruit balanced the “earthiness” to the point where it trained my palate without overwhelming it. A good pu-erh should still taste like tea, but with the earthy top notes.
    I’m curious to hear what type of pu-erh you tried – was it the black long-aged variety, or one of the “green”/less processed?
    Since I’m a pu-erh fan, I imagine you’ve guessed there’s not really a tea that has sent me running away from it, but I’ve had “old” tea that had been stored too long and was weak no matter the quantity or steeping time. Weak flavor is no fun 😛
    Good luck with your further adventures!

    • a girl with tea December 30, 2010 5:35 PM

      I do tend to like a rich-earthy flavor in my tea. So, I haven’t given up on puerh yet. I so appreciate your kind words and comments!

  14. Alex December 29, 2010 8:24 PM

    I’ve never tried pu’er and now I don’t think I want to!

    Here are two teas I’ve absolutely despised:

    Tazo Full-Leaf Green Tips
    This stuff is all kinds of wrong. Granted, I’m not a big green tea lover to start with but this tasted…meaty? Almost like I was having some sort of soup. Never again.

    Bigelow Earl Grey
    Earl Grey is my favorite, so I make it a priority to try/all varieties that I can. I had this once in a hotel and I was appalled – it tasted like dirt. I avoid all Bigelow teas now because of this one.

    • a girl with tea December 29, 2010 10:20 PM

      Thanks for sharing what teas you dislike! It’s interesting how one bad experience can turn us off of an entire brand.

      Although, I hope I haven’t turned you off puerh entirely. I do plan to try a different brand. I’ve read that it’s suppose to taste quite earthy, rich and complex, not fishy! I am looking forward to sampling some different puerh teas in the future. Next time, I will be sure to get just a sample size!

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