Understanding that tea is almost entirely water, it would make sense that water quality is imperative for making great tea. From making bread, beer, tea, coffee and nearly anything else, water quality is crucial. For instance, when baking bread, water which is too alkaline can inhibit the necessary chemical reactions needed to make lively bread. However where beer is concerned, water hardness plays an important part when converting starches to sugars. Moreover, PH levels determine how crisp and aromatic the hop aroma and tastes will be in the finished product. As with bread and beers, tea will also suffer greatly under poor quality waters – simply stated, if water tastes, smells or looks bad, it will ultimately end up in your tea brews.
NOTE: You should never consider using distilled water for brewing ANYTHING! Distilled water lacks the necessary minerals that are crucial for flavor profiles.
Most avid tea drinkers know that finding good water is half the battle, but have you ever thought that perhaps the water itself can be affected by the vessel it is heated in? Some say that the correct vessel for boiling water can be just as important as the water itself – especially in the eastern tea cultures. For instance, Asian tea cultures, particularly that of the Chinese, Taiwanese and Japanese peoples go far beyond appreciating tea water by just how it tastes -they also believe that a kettle can affect the water’s “Qi”. Cha Qi is a long and controversial discussion which has to do with the belief that a body’s energy flow can be unblocked through the use of meditation and tea. There are many opinions about this concept and it is better suited for a different discussion.
Let’s move on, shall we…
Heating vessels have long been thought to influence tea water for centuries. For instance, would it surprise you to know that the English, Chinese-Taiwanese and Japanese tea cultures consider sterling silver as the ultimate material for heating tea water? In fact, I know of a few tea drinkers who have taken this concept so seriously they have paid hundreds for a silver kettle.
Like all things that have grown into “an appreciation”, most opinions will vary. I myself have experimented and found that water boiled in a silver vessel seemingly appeared rounder and smoother when compared to other methods– however, in the final analysis it is a subjective process and like anything subjective it should be taken for what it is worth.
I personally think that a silver kettle to boil water is a bit excessive and there are cheaper vessels which are much more cost effective than silver. Ever head of an earthenware kettle?
Earthenware kettles are just that – kettles made of various soils, including clay. In fact, this is my chosen method for boiling water- it’s more practical and I don’t have to take out a second mortgage to own one! They come in wonderful styles and colors with different heating elements which double as a stand. Some are heated with carbonized woods or olive pits while others use alcohol lamps to either bring or hold the water temperature. In theory, the clay material interacts with the natural minerals in the water — thus enhancing it.
Just remember: whatever the vessel, at minimum the vessel should be clean and free from odor and made of material that will not contaminate or leech into the water.
[Editor’s note: This article was updated to reflect more accurate scientific information.]
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