Last Updated on 07/15/2021 by Desmond
Water is necessary for brewing tea, the water quality affects tea taste very much. In tea lovers’ point, the tea brewed by different waters will get different results in the infusion color, taste, and flavor. To some precious tea, we exactly don’t want to waste it because of the bad water; even it may be harmful to the body.
There are 3 requirements for water to brew a perfect cup of tea: Purity, Hardness, and pH value.
It’s easy to understand. The purity of water means the impurity ratio in water, a simple saying is how clear the water is. The higher the purity, the clearer infusion it makes, and the less it affects the flavor and aroma. Of course, I don’t think you will use the muddy water, which doesn’t seem well, to brew tea; it will surely lead to diarrhea.
The bottled pure water sold on the market, which has been distilled and other processing, is the water with the highest purity. It belongs to soft water, non-taste, and inclusion-free; of course, neither the benefit and harmful ingredients are not contained. That seems to be the best water for brewing tea. But what a pity, in the views of traditional tea lovers, it belongs to “death” water. Just you will never use something tasteless thing for seasoning when cooking; people prefer to use the water that “contained something” for brewing tea.
All we know water can be classified in soft water and hard water. The standard is the total concentration of calcium and magnesium ions in water; they typically exist in the form of compounds. The high concentration one is hard water; the contrary one is soft water. And in our daily life, all the tap-water is hard water, which not much suitable for making tea.
When tea steeping, the ingredients will dissolve out, include some metal ions from the tea leaves contained. They will easily set off chemical reactions with the metal ion in water, especially the high valent cationic.
A Chinese study showed that the tea infusion is highly sensitive to the iron ion in water, easy to react with the polyphenol in tea, and create some black-brown precipitate; that affects the infusion color very much.
And the calcium ion is easy to react with the ingredients of tea leaves itself, makes it hard to dissolve into water, and makes the infusion tasteless. An American study also suggested that enhancing the calcium ion concentration in water, can reduce the bitter taste from EGCG, but nothing to do with the sweetness.
Typically, hand water is not suitable for drinking, but you can easily change it into soft water. Just boil it, and the metal ions will go but left a layer of scale behind inside your kettle.
The natural spring water also contains many mineral substances, so it belongs to hard water. But in traditional, people called it “live” water, which is the favorite of tea lovers. Why? Because it not only contains calcium and magnesium ions but many other metals like zinc and sodium.
People took a long time to find the best spring water for each type of tea. One of the most famous is “Hupao” spring water, which we had mentioned at the post about Longjing green tea. It is regarded as the best water for brewing green tea. There are still many people who spent hours getting this water from there today.
Suppose you use the silver teapot or iron teapot for boiling water. In that case, some metal ions will dissolve in water when heating, and react with the ions in water to improve the water quality to a certain extent.
Related Reading: Two simple ways to figure out whether you have hard water.
The pH is short for Latin “Pondus Hydrogenii“(Pondus=intensity of pressure, Hydrogenium=hydrogen,) which use for measuring the hydrogen activity in substance. We usually pH value to descript whether the water is acidity, alkaline, or neutral.
Typically, the hardness is closely related to the pH value in the un-processing water case. Hard water also has a high pH value, which means it is alkaline. The pH value affects the tea infusion color and flavor a lot. Alkaline water will make the polyphenol take irreversible oxidation, lead to dark color and tastelessness.
Use water with the same hardness to brew tea, the lower pH value, the lighter color of the tea infusion, more fresh and convergence taste. When the pH value greater than 7, it can help the thearubigins and theaflavin to oxidation, make the color darker, and form more aging flavor, taste not such convergence but soft.
Different type of teas needs different pH value water to brew. Such as green tea, brew with the low pH value water can make the infusion brighter, full of the fresh and sweet taste.
And to Pu-erh tea, the aging process itself is an oxidation process from the tea polyphenols to theaflavins and thearubigins, it’s the same as what high pH value water do when brewing. So use low alkalescence water is better for brewing the aging tea.
Good Water Makes Good Tea
In our daily lives, the water we use for brewing tea usually gets in 3 ways: tap-water, pure water, and mineral water. No matter which you choose, for health, you must boil it up, then cool down to the suitable temperature.
Related Reading: How Water Temperature Affect Tea Quality.
Tap-water is the easiest to get, but the standards are different in each country. Most countries will add some disinfectant for killing germs, and the aged water pipe may also rust; these make the water becomes hard. It is recommended to set a water purifier at home to purify the tap-water preliminary. But you still need to boil the water before brewing tea, remove the non-natural mineral further.
You can buy the bottled pure water from the mall; this may be the safest water for making tea. To pure water, there is nothing to talk about; it will not either break the tea taste or improve it. Of course, if you are going to make some fruit tea or cold-brewed tea, pure water is a nice choice.
Natural mineral water is regarded as the best water for making tea. There are 2 ways to get it, one way is to buy the bottled products from the mall, the other is collect it from the wild. The mineral water products are recommended, and that also what most tea lovers choose. After been strict quality testings, they are guaranteed at purity and safety.
Many tea lovers who live in the countryside, they like to collect the spring water from the stream or the rocks at wild. Unlike the mineral substance in tap-water, the minerals found in wild water are natural, most from the earth’s crust or rocks.
Of course, you need to be sure that the local environment hasn’t been polluted by industrial. The natural mineral water has a light and clean sweet taste itself, and the ratio of the minerals of it just the best for improving the tea taste. What amazing!
In fact, these natural mineral water maybe not so clean and easy to lead to diarrhea or parasite. People knew it a long time ago. What they do to it is bring the water back, and put it in a big jar, with a layer of stone at the bottom, then place more than one night without covering. When going to make tea, they take the upper layer water with a spoon gently. Due to there is precipitate at the bottom, so usually forsaken the lower layer water.
This way for water processing is still in use today; the demand for water in Japanese tea tao is always like this. To modern people, this method is also desirable. You can use an ordinary pot, and lay some activated carbon at the bottom, to reach the same result.