Guide to Water Quality in Brewing Fine Teas
Thursday, 15 August 2013 | Adam
A few simple tips to achieve a perfectly brewed cup of tea
- If the water tastes good by itself, the brewed tea is more likely to have a good flavour.
- Check the composition of tap water in your area - i.e. whether you live in a hard water area - and the local water quality data. This information is widely available on the internet. If you happen to live in a hard water area, use appropriate methods to soften the water such as using water filters and filter kettle. Alternatively, you can use low mineral content water such as purified bottle water.
- Always use freshly poured water straight from the tap or bottle.
- Don't use re-boiled water or water directly from hot water taps as this will have less oxygen content and negatively affect the flavour of your tea.
- Use the appropriate water temperature for the specific type of tea. For example, black tea usually requires a boiling temperature of 100 degrees, whereas green teas and white teas require a water temperature between 70-80 degrees.
- Check the recommended brewing time for each type of tea.
- Using the appropriate quantity of tea leaves is also very important.
Pure Water and Fine Tea
Brewing of tea is a ritual for many of us and it is also refined into an art with health and spiritual aspects emerging as part of the process. For many tea enthusiasts, the brewing process is an important part of the tea experience that culminates in the preparation of a satisfying beverage and a way of life.
There are some basic principles followed by the experienced tea drinkers generally for infusion or brewing of tea. The infusion process is often as important as the initial selection of tea. It is a fact that since 99% of tea is water, better water makes better tea and water is critical to the final outcome of tea preparation.
The mass produced teas widely available in supermarkets are specifically made to withstand the hard water, however, this is done at the expense of the quality and flavour of the brew. Fine teas are especially sensitive to the nature of water for infusion as the unique characteristics and subtle flavours in the fine teas will not be fully realised by poor quality water. The quality of a brewed cup of tea - from pretty much any type of tea - can be greatly enhanced by good quality water. Teas brewed with pure water containing no minerals, produce a crisp flavour and a clear brew colour that is aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
Water Quality and Brewing Tea
The best water for successful tea infusion is low in mineral content, free of contamination and additives and high in oxygen content. Good tasting tea requires good tasting water. If the water tastes good by itself, the brewed tea is more likely to have a good flavour.
If you are using tap water, filtration is often a good idea. Many tap water suppliers use chlorine to kill bacteria. The chlorine in tap water combined with mineral and chemical deposits can significantly affect tea taste and the tea drinker’s overall experience. We recommend that you remove chlorine and other chemicals as well as sediment from the water.
Chlorinated tap water, for example, will destroy the flavour of tea. No matter how skilful the preparation or spectacular the tea, bad water will make a bad cup of tea.
Most experts recommend that you never boil water for a prolonged period or re-boil a previously used supply. The more that the water boils, the more oxygen is driven out of the water. When water is boiled, oxygen evaporates, and the crisp taste of the brew is lost.
Fresh cold water is important. In areas with poor tap water, use bottled or filtered water free of contaminants. Never use water from the hot water tap. If only tap water is available, run the water until it is cold and has a chance to aerate and infuse oxygen.
Mineral Content – Soft vs. Hard Water
Water described as "hard" is high in dissolved minerals, specifically calcium and magnesium. These minerals accumulate in the water, adversely affect the taste and clarity of the tea and accumulate in teapots and infusers.
Hard water can also affect the appearance of tea by making it dark and murky. Hard water often results in an undesirable chalky taste and can also reduce the aesthetic portion of the tea brewing process by bleaching the colour of the leaves.
Oxygen and Water
Oxygen plays an important role in brewing because it helps to release the flavours of the tea. As a result, you must use water that is aerated - i.e. full of oxygen. It is an established fact that the presence of oxygen in water is required to maximise tea flavour. Aeration is particularly important when brewing fine teas.
Avoid re-heating water because previously boiled water will have lost much of its dissolved oxygen which is important to bring out the tea flavour.
Always use freshly drawn water that has not previously been boiled to maximise the oxygen content of the brew.