Has your tea ever tasted “flat”, bitter, or like chemicals? While purchasing inferior or questionable tea can certainly make for a poor tea drinking experience, another thing to consider is whether you are using the right kind of water.
Good water can make a world of difference in how your tea tastes, and yet it is one of the most overlooked aspects to good tea preparation.
But isn’t water just… water? Isn’t it tasteless? Absolutely not!
If you were to pour several glasses of water from different sources into similar cups and then taste them side-by-side, you’ll notice that there are variations in both texture and taste. Some water has a “plastic” flavor to it, while other kinds of water has a very clean, crisp taste. Some water can feel thick in the mouth, while other kinds of water seems to effortlessly glide from the mouth straight to the stomach.
We believe that the tea that you drink is not just the product of your tea leaves; it is the result of a playful interaction between your water and your tea leaves. This means it’s very important to pick the right kind of water when you choose to brew your tea!
In a perfect world, the ideal water for your tea is spring water closest to the source of where the tea is grown. Some say that you haven’t had true Dragonwell until you’ve brewed some with water from Long Jing (“Tiger Spring”).
Not all of us can be so lucky. Fortunately, you can still have a superior cup of tea by taking some important steps:
- Spring or Filtered Water. In most cases, tap water is heavily chlorinated, and there’s rising concerns about toxic levels of lead in our drinking water. Even if the chemicals are not of a concern to you, they do adversely affect the flavor, and so because of this as well, tap water is not advised for brewing tea. While distilled water can be an attractive option, many feel like it leaves the tea feeling weak.
The ideal type of water is a good spring water with some mineral content that can enhance the flavors in your tea. If this is not an option, however, then filtered water is a good alternative. You can use something as simple as a filtered pitcher, like a Brita or Pūr, or you can use a more elaborate setup, like an under-the-counter reverse osmosis filtration system.
You may want to consider remineralizing your water for some additional flavor to make it as spring-like as possible, but you need to be careful using some remineralization products because they can make the water taste salty or milky.
- Be Mindful of Minerals. If you use spring water or even purified tap water, you might sometimes start to see some scale buildup in your tea kettle. Once this buildup gets concentrated enough, it can start to have a negative impact on taste. By keeping your eye on this and making sure to clean your teaware by removing the scale, you can ensure that you are having the best cup of tea possible.
- Boiling Water. There’s some friendly debate as to whether one should heat your water to the desired temperature before brewing your tea or whether one should boil the water first before letting it cool to the desired temperature. There isn’t a “right” or “wrong” with this, but we personally like to always boil water first before letting it cool.
Some people claim, however, that you should always discard your boiled water because reboiling it can negatively affect the flavor of your tea or, worse, can be toxic. There doesn’t seem to be evidence that this is true though, and since we encourage everyone to be mindful of the environment, you should probably reuse any water for your tea that hasn’t been standing still for a long period of time.
Whether you choose to use spring water, filtered water, or some other kind of water, the right teaware with the right water and high quality single origin, artisanal tea can make for a delightful experience. For this reason, good water is one of the first things you should consider before you prepare your tea.