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What makes a cup of tea delicious and invigorating has a lot to do with the water used to make it. So naturally, choosing the right type of water for your tea is essential if you want the best tasting cup of tea.
According to the Lu Yu, who wrote the Classic of Tea over 1000 years ago:
- Spring water from the mountains is the best
- River water is the second best
- Well water is the worst
Today, we have a wider variety of types of water available including filtered water, distilled water, mineral water and bottled water, to name a few.
With that in mind, let’s break down our options to find the best type of water for tea.
Tap water offers one of the best options for a great tasting cup of tea. What’s more, unlike bottled water, tap water is free and environmentally friendly. However, there are some caveats to this.
First of all, most tap water in the US is hard water. Hard water contains a wide range of minerals including calcium and magnesium. While these are not harmful for health, it can impact the flavor and smell of tea.
So how do you know if your tap water is too hard for tea? Simply boil the water and just before it comes to a rolling boil, sniff the vapor. If you can smell minerals, the content is too high for a good cup of tea.
On the other hand, if your tap water is soft or you’re using a water softener, you’ll end up with a flavorless, flat tasting cup of tea. Soft water contains few minerals but typically has a lot of sodium. One way around this is to add specific types of rocks into your kettle as this allows the water to absorb minerals and balance the flavor of the water.
According to Lu Yu, well water is the worst when it comes to making tea. The trouble with well water is that it tends to be more alkaline and have a higher pH which can result in flavorless, flat tasting water.
If well water has a pH of over 8.5 this means that it’s hard water with a lot of dissolved solids. As we’ve already mentioned, hard water can give you a cup of tea that tastes metallic or sharp. If you find that your water is too hard, you might wish to use filtered or purified water instead.
There’s a variety of ways that water can be purified, with each of these having their pros and cons. Here are some of the ways water can be purified:
- Distillation – avoid using distilled water for tea because it’ll result in flat tasting tea. The reason is that distilled water has little to no minerals, meaning that it’s very soft.
- Filtration – If you’re using a filter, you can have contaminant-free tasty water. Some filtration systems remove all the minerals in the water making it soft, like Reverse Osmosis, but there may be a remineralization stage in the process.
- Chemicals – Sometimes water is purified using disinfectants and chemicals like chlorine and iodine. This can impact the taste of the tea. If your water has been purified using such systems, it’s best to run it through a filter before using.
While filtered tap water can give you good results, depending on the quality of the feed water, distillation is best avoided when it comes to tea.
We hate to say this but if you’re after spring water (considered the best for tea), you’re only way to get it might be by buying bottled spring water. Spring water typically has a neutral pH of 7 and a good balance of minerals.
Avoid other types of bottled water like distilled water or mineral water, which are too soft and too hard respectively and may not give you the results you desire.
However, it’s worth noting that bottled water is not only extremely bad for the environment but also very expensive. Over time the cost to the planet and your wallet will add up and you might question whether it’s worth it. We believe that it’s a better choice to opt for filtered tap water or water with adjusted pH.
Because over 95% of homes in the US have hard water, many people use a water softener to remove the minerals in the water. Water softeners remove the calcium and magnesium in the water, replacing them with salt. Water treated in this way has a salty, flat flavor, resulting in terrible tasting tea. Avoid this type of water for tea.
The Bottom Line
While the origin and the type of water is relevant when considering the best water for brewing tea, it makes more sense to consider what’s in your water rather than where it came from. The above discussion indicates that water does impact on the taste of your tea, but it comes down to factors like the pH and the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS).
Specific levels of these will result in the water being either hard or soft. As we’ve already discussed above, hard water rich in minerals can result in metallic, sharp tasting tea, while soft water gives you flat tea. So, depending on the type of water you have access to, you may have to make some changes like adding salt, minerals, specific rocks or bamboo charcoal to your water when boiling it. These adjustments can improve the taste.
While spring water is often considered the best for brewing, it’s not necessarily the best every time. The most important factor is to pair your tea with water that’s right for the specific type of tea. You may find that strong teas taste great with hard water, while weaker or lighter teas pair well with neutral tasting water with a balanced pH.
At the end of the day, it comes down to your preferences and what you find makes an amazing cup of tea. And that can be different for everyone.