When you brew coffee for a living there’s nothing as important as taste and smell, which is why Dave Perritt was horrified after contracting COVID-19.
Perritt, 56, owns and operates Mission’s Grab-A-Java Coffee Roasters. He wants to warn others about the long-term effects he’s endured since recovering from the illness.
“Smell is a memory file in your brain,” he said. “It’s almost like those memory files are jumbled.”
One of the post-illness symptoms is a significant loss to the olfactory sense; multiple studies have found half to three-quarters of people diagnosed report dysfunction to their smell and taste systems.
Perritt said he first started to feel like he had the flu on Oct. 14, a headache and fever followed on Oct. 15, which quickly escalated into hot-cold chills, vomiting, and diarrhea.
By Sunday, Oct. 17, he was having trouble staying hydrated, had an irregular heartbeat – a particular concern because of his atrial fibrillation – and was struggling to breathe properly.
He went to the emergency at Mission Memorial Hospital that night to ensure his blood-oxygen levels and heartbeat were OK.
“I have never been this sick in my entire life,” Perritt said. “Had I not been protected with vaccination, I don’t believe I would have survived.”
And while he elected to go home the next day, his smell had completely disappeared.
Perritt and his roommate and partner Matthew Driver are both “supertasters,” a person whose genetic ability to identify the some 800 intricate flavour components in coffee range far greater than the average-Joe drinker.
Both of them contracted COVID.
“Your whole career is based on the ability to taste and smell,” he said, adding some high-level roasters have their olfactory senses insured.
Perritt is an accredited roaster, and studied for two years to pass a Coffee Roaster Guild test. He said passing requires you to have 100 per cent accuracy in a blind smell test, and today, he’s struggling to get 50 per cent.
His mornings are spent testing his nose against 36 different liquid vials containing coffee aromas in an attempt to “stimulate the brain and remap that memory connection,” Perritt said.
The nightmare is that he will no longer be able to identify the flavours he is looking for or identify defects in the beans he orders.
And the loss of smell is not his only post-COVID defect.
Perritt says he’s been suffering from a brain fog that has him forgetting orders, and feeling easily fatigued and overwhelmed in a profession he’s been at for 27 years.
“Remembering 10 drinks with soy and all the particulars was never a problem,” he said. “I have to use a notepad now and write down every order.”
He believes the brain fog and smell loss are probably linked, similar to how people with head injuries can lose memories and sense.
And while his senses have slowly recovered, Perritt fears his nose will never be what it once was.
“This is not an illness to play games with,” he said. “I’m nowhere near my normal self.”
By sharing his battles with post-COVID symptoms, Perritt is hoping other foodies who are vaccine adverse will make the decision to get vaccinated.
He said a few have already done so.