I’m sure this won’t be the first time you’ve seen a discussion about the importance of using the right water for tea. In fact, there have been similar posts on this very blog, but it’s an issue important enough to bear repeating. Tea is, of course, largely water by volume, so it makes sense that the water you use to make your tea has a significant impact on it. Water quality varies considerably from place to place, but even if the water coming out of a tap is perfectly safe and tastes fine, that doesn’t mean it’s going to produce a good tasting cup of tea.
Tea leaves also vary in their sensitivity levels, and this should be taken into account when deciding what kind of water to use. A delicate, pure leaf white tea, for example, is going to be considerably more sensitive to water quality than a strongly brewed Earl Grey black tea. In other words, you are going to be more likely to taste the difference in the brewed tea when you’re drinking a tea that is more delicate. Japanese green teas are also particularly sensitive to water type.
Ideally, and traditionally, the best water for brewing tea is pure spring water. Spring water is almost always available in grocery stores, and ranges in price from quite reasonable, like Crystal Geyser, to impractically expensive, such as Evian and more obscure brands of water. The availability of larger containers is also a consideration, as you’re not going to want to have to buy a ton of little bottles just to keep enough water on hand, not to mention the negative environmental impact of all that plastic waste.
It is also important to recognize the difference between bottled waters that are purified tap water, and waters that are from pure, natural sources. If you prefer purified water, which is often purified with the use of charcoal filtering, you are probably better off filtering the water yourself, using a Britta or Pure water filter, which will be more economical than buying (and lugging around) containers of water purified for you by a company. If you prefer glacial, artesian well or spring water, read your packaging very carefully and make sure that you are getting what you expect.
And know that just because a package states that the contents are pure spring water, this doesn’t mean that it will taste good to you. I bought some water a couple of weeks ago that was labeled “pure spring water” and used it for brewing some lightly-oxidized Dong Ding Oolong tea. The tea did not taste as good as it should have, but while I was trying to determine the reason, I drank some of the water by itself, and it tasted horrible to me. If you don’t like the way a brand tastes as a simple glass of water, you’re really not going to like the effect it has on your brewed tea unless the tea is strong and overpowering enough to compensate.
Since individual people have different tastes, the ideal way to determine the best water is to research and to experiment. Try brewing the same tea with three different water types: straight tap water, charcoal-filtered tap water, and pure spring water. See if you can detect the difference, and see what you like best. This will be most effective if you can do it with another person and do your taste testing blind, which will eliminate your assumptions about what tastes best. I don’t personally know of anyone who will fiercely defend tap water as perfect for brewing tea, but if you can’t taste the difference yourself, there’s no reason to use anything else. But for most people the difference is worth paying attention to, and if you’re accustomed to tap water, changing to a purer water will enhance your tea drinking experience considerably.
Check out Gongfu Girl’s blog for more interesting tea-tips!
© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.