I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you’re not convinced of the importance of water when it comes to preparing tea, try making a cup of tea without it. Which may be a bit extreme but, if you consider how much of your tea is composed of water, then it stands to reason that you’d want to be sure you’re using the best water possible.
One of the oft-repeated myths about tea — not to be confused with the one about the Chinese emperor who discovered it or the 30-second rinse to get rid of the caffeine in it — is the notion that you should use water that’s straight from the tap or bottle. The logic here is that allowing water to stand or reboiling water left in the tea kettle will reduce the oxygen content of the water and negatively affect the taste of your tea.
In one blog post I ran across recently the author suggests that not only should you avoid reboiling water for tea but that you should pour the hot water onto the tea from at least a foot away (using a very steady hand, presumably) to incorporate more oxygen.
Which all sounds perfectly logical and reasonable, but is there any truth to it? Well, that’s kind of hard to say. Not that there aren’t plenty of people out there who are willing to say exactly that. I found cautions against using “stale” water for tea as far back as 1904 in an edition of Home Science magazine and countless people have said it again in the years that have followed.
But finding someone with an authoritative, well-researched position on the matter is another thing. After quite a bit of searching about the best I could come up with is an excerpt from a 2008 article in Chow magazine, in which a food science expert with the Institute of Food Technologists says “the oxygen in the water reacts with the aromatic compounds in tea and coffee to produce flavor.”
Which hardly settles the matter and suggests that it’s one that needs more in-depth research. In the meantime, about the best I can say is that if you’re concerned that “stale” or reboiled water is affecting the taste of your tea it doesn’t hurt anything to refrain from using it.
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