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
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.