What is the BEST Water to Use for Tea?

Content
a man pouring tea into a cup

How to Choose the Right Water for Brewing Tea? Many beginners may need to realize this is an issue.

But you may wondered why the same tea tastes excellent when brewed by a tea master but not as good when you brew it at home.

  1. What is the underlying principle of brewing tea?
  2. How can you brew tasty tea?
  3. In other words, where should you start learning to brew tea?
a small waterfall and mossy rocks in a forest 

Brewing tea is the process of extracting substances from the tea leaves into the water. All brewing techniques aim to control the variables in this process.

Therefore, brewing tea requires paying attention to 5 key aspects:

  1. Choosing the water
  2. Determining tea-to-water ratio
  3. Mastering water temperature
  4. Steeping time
  5. Tasting and adjusting

Picking the right ingredients, seasonings, and cooking methods is crucial for the taste. So does making tea.

a man pouring tea into a glass

To brew tea, you must consider the tea and water amount, water temperature, and steeping time.

However, these 3 elements vary somewhat depending on the tea brewed. Today, we will discuss the one unchanging factor: choosing the proper water for brewing tea.

Why is Choosing the Right Water for Brewing Tea So Important?

In the early Qing dynasty, scholar Zhang Dafu wrote about tea quality. He said using 8 parts tea and 10 parts water would make the tea reach its full potential of 10 points. However, using 8 parts water and 10 parts tea would only give the tea 8 points.

This illustrates the importance of choosing suitable water for brewing tea.

There is a Chinese saying that goes, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

a teapot and two cups of tea

In this article, you’ll learn how to choose the right water for brewing tea at home.

Following these tips, you can make a tea that tastes almost as good as a tea master would brew.

Okay, Let’s begin. To select brewing water, consider purity, freshness, and softness

High Purity

a glass being filled with water

As the name implies, purity means the brewing water should have high purity.

Apart from trace minerals, the water should not contain other substances.

The liquid should be clear and free from cloudiness and particles. It should also have no excessive bacteria or microorganisms when viewed under a microscope.

Additionally, it must not contain any harmful substances that dissolve in it.

a cabin in the snow at night

In ancient China, people preferred using natural water like rainwater and snowmelt. They referred to it as rootless water or heavenly water.

Now we know this is essentially distilled water from nature. In ancient times, such water was cleaner compared to surface water.

The phrase “a late night guest knocks on the door, I boil ice to make tea” sounds romantic, but modern people can’t emulate it. This is mainly because industrial pollution has made our natural distilled water less pure.

The dew you collect probably has distilled water if you live in a village or city. This water absorbs harmful factory emissions called sulfides. These sulfides are not good for making tea and can harm your health.

Long ago, people enjoyed using well water and spring water to make tea. We can do something similar by using spring water from nature reserves or the rootless water mentioned earlier.

Industrial pollution can contaminate underground water sources if you live in a city or countryside. Pesticides and fertilizers seep into the ground. Such water is still not suitable for direct drinking.

For people living in such areas, it is advisable to purchase bottled water, or install a reverse osmosis filter at home, or use re-boiled tap water.

High Freshness

a river and rocks

Choosing fresh water means the water should have sufficient dissolved oxygen and carbon dioxide.

Tea research has found that the higher the dissolved oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in water, the better it can elicit the tea’s aroma.

In ancient China, people noticed spring and river water brewed better tea than well water. Why?

Spring water and river water are running water types. They increase the contact area between air and water, which leads to higher dissolved oxygen levels than well water.

a woman drinking water from a spring

As still water, well water has oxygen levels proportional to atmospheric pressure.

Sometimes, when the air feels heavy and there’s low pressure, fish come up from the bottom to breathe. This happens before heavy rains because the oxygen levels in the water are low then.

Brewing tea with such water often yields a stifled flavor without the fragrance rising high. Conversely, when the air is crisp in autumn, it is suitable for collecting water to brew tea.

a circular well surrounded by trees and plants

Also, high-altitude regions have less oxygen in the air, which means less dissolved oxygen in water. Along with the lower boiling point, tea brewed in these areas does not yield as nice fragrance as lower altitudes.

Additionally, the warmer the water, the less oxygen can dissolve, so spring water coming out cooler often has higher freshness. In Chinese, it’s called “洌”(liè), meaning colder natural water.

Water freshness decreases with each boil, so brewing tea is best with water at its first boil. Repeated boiling reduces the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, yielding less flavorful tea.

In tea-loving areas like China’s Chaozhou, they use small pots to boil water for freshness. These pots must be refilled every 2-3 times to keep the water fresh.

Using Soft Water

Soft water has a few sweet-tasting minerals, usually silicate compounds. This makes the water taste slightly sweet. The calcium and magnesium ion content should be as low as possible.

The calcium carbonate content in mg/L or ppm determines the hardness of water. Below 60 ppm is generally considered soft water.

The sweet softness of tea water mainly affects the tea’s taste. Using hard water makes the tea cloudy with poor clarity and tastes unpleasant. In contrast, sweet, soft water makes the tea flavor light, gentle and smooth.

a waterfall and a pool in the middle of a forest

Water from natural springs in limestone areas is harder due to more dissolved calcium carbonate. Groundwater in granite and other silicate areas is sweeter and softer.

Emperor Qianlong was adept at tea drinking. He used a special silver container to measure spring waters around the country, finding the lightest to be from Yuquan Mountain.

He designated this palace water and wrote “Number One Spring under Heaven.” With less dissolved minerals, the water was naturally lighter – very scientific.

a pavilion in a lake in China

For most of us, tap water is the easiest to obtain, but it usually has 100-200 ppm (varies with temperature).

The simplest way to soften water is boiling, which causes minerals to coagulate and precipitate. This is the kettle scale referred to, largely composed of such minerals.

You can also install a reverse osmosis filter at home. RO-treated water can get down to 30 ppm or less.

homeuse RO-treated equipment

Avoid using distilled water because it lacks minerals, with only 1 ppm or less. This deprives the body of necessary minerals.

The purity of the tea decides if it’s safe to drink. Freshness affects how good the tea smells. The softness of the tea affects how smooth and sweet it tastes. All three criteria are indispensable.

How to Judge if Water is Hard or Soft?

I test water hardness by adding soap water to 100-200 ml of water, shaking for 30 seconds, and checking the foam. More foam indicates softer water, while less foam indicates harder water.

Purchase a TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) meter, which can also measure the total dissolved mineral salts and organic matter. Lower readings indicate lower water hardness.

The most accessible tea brewing water: Purified water

For daily tea brewing, the simplest option is to use purified water.

Purified water is also known as RO water. It starts with water that meets health standards. Then it goes through distillation, electrolysis, reverse osmosis, and other processing methods. These methods produce pure water without any additives or ready-to-drink.

a plumber installing a water filter

Brewing tea with purified water is great. It makes the tea clear and pure, with a refreshing taste.

Although purified water won’t maximize a tea’s flavor, it won’t damage it. So, when unsure which water to use, purified water is a relatively safe choice.

FAQs

Can I use mineral water to make tea?

I don’t recommend using mineral water to brew tea. Mineral water is sourced underground, flows through rocks, and has minerals and trace elements.

Since mineral water sources differ, their precise mineral and trace element composition varies too. The right mineral water can complement a tea’s flavor, while the wrong one can ruin a good tea.

Mineral waters have lots of metallic ions like calcium, magnesium, and sodium. This makes them hard water, which isn’t good for tea brewing.

Is it Ok to use distilled water for tea?

I don’t recommend using distilled water to brew tea. Because distilling reduces the water’s ppm value too much. Tea is a healthy beverage, but it lacks the minerals our bodies need. Drinking mineral-deficient water long-term can negatively impact health to some degree.

How do you purify water for tea?

Here are 2 ways to purify brewing water:

  1. Install a reverse osmosis water filtration system. RO (reverse osmosis) processing reduces water to 30 ppm or less.
  2. Boil tap water, then let it cool undisturbed. Carefully pour the cooled water into a clean container without pouring out the mineral sediment. This separates the water and minerals. Boil the separated water again before brewing the tea.

What is the best pH for tea?

To keep tea fresh and concentrated, use water with a pH of 5.0-7.0, not alkaline water above pH 7. Alkaline water oxidizes polyphenols, causing yellowing and browning of tea.

As the pH of water increases above 7, the tea color becomes darker due to unstable compounds. So, I don’t recommend brewing tea with alkaline water.

a hand holding 3 PH test tubes

Does hotter water make better tea?

Hotter water makes tea taste more bitter, so I don’t recommend using overly hot water for brewing. You can boil water and then let it cool to the target temperature before brewing. This ensures bacteria are killed while the tea is fresher and sweeter.

Does hard water make tea stronger?

Hard water can make tea taste richer, but I still don’t recommend it for beginners. Hard water exacerbates the bitter taste that most novices dislike. If you have years of experience and like a particular flavor, hard water is ok, but be sure to use hard water with safe mineral levels. Otherwise, it can have side effects. Start with soft water until you develop personal preferences.

a cave with a turquoise pool in it

Conclusion

Choosing proper brewing water is crucial, directly impacting a novice tea lover’s experience. Following this article’s recommendations, you can always find the most suitable water.

Many bottled mineral and purified water types are readily available for clean tea brewing. Please share your experiences using bottled water in the comments – we can all learn together!

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  • About

    I was born in Xinyang, home of Maojian tea. Eager to share my extensive tea knowledge. Welcome to my tea world.

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  • About

    I was born in Xinyang, home of Maojian tea. Eager to share my extensive tea knowledge. Welcome to my tea world.

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