By Bruce Richardson (elmwoodinn.com)
Photo by Kamin H. Williams
accounts for 98.5 percent of the volume in a cup of tea, so the quality of the
water you use is equally as important as the quality of your tea. You could
steep fantastic teas in poor water, and the result would always be less than
of tea have been aware of water’s importance in the art of making good tea
since Lu Yu, author of Ch’a Ching, in A.D. 780 stumbled upon a
glorious spring whose water was extremely clear and clean. He brewed tea with
this spring water and found that the tea tasted unexpectedly better than usual.
Even the early settlers of Manhattan had designated “tea-water pumps” to be
used only for drawing water for making tea.
Americans are fortunate to have safe and affordable municipal water, but that
rarely means tap water is best for brewing tea. How can you enhance the quality
of your home tap water for steeping tea? Here are four initial observations you
The look of the water. Is anything floating
in the water, or is it off-color?
The smell of the water. Are there trace aromas of sulfur or
The taste of the water. Can you taste any dominant minerals?
The visual signs of water hardness. Do you see heavy calcium
buildup in your water kettle or around your faucets?
you have extremely hard water, the easiest solution for most consumers is a
one- or two-stage filter system. Simple countertop water filters will remove
visible solids and chlorine and will improve the taste of most water. However,
these do not substantially alter the mineral content of water known as “total
dissolved solids,” or TDS. Mineral content can be removed by a reverse-osmosis
system that gives you totally pure water. The downside is that reverse osmosis
removes all the minerals, and that’s not the best water for making
tea. Some mineral content is needed—just not too much or too little.
is the ideal tea-water analysis, if you have your water professionally
80 ppm total hardness
No chlorine or iron
150 ppm total dissolved solids (TDS)
40 ppm alkalinity
spring water or bottled water be used for tea? Be aware that all waters are not
created equally. Check the bottler’s Web site for an analysis statement, and
then compare it with the ideal analysis shown above. Keep in mind that
distilled water has no mineral content and is too “flat” for tea making.
of the leading water designers for the professional coffee and tea trade is
Cirqua Customized Water. It provides water used in brewing samples at major
trade shows, including the World Tea Expo. Scientists at Cirqua have developed
a packet of liquid minerals called The Formula that can be added to a gallon of
distilled or reverse osmosis–treated water to ensure the proper balance for
brewing tea or coffee. You can read more about water for tea and The Formula at
Bruce Richardson is
the author of The New Tea Companion: A
Guide to Teas Throughout the World. Read his blog at theteamaestro.blogspot.com.