Sourcing your water
I live in Montana and have access to a spring that I can carry a good deal of water from without too much effort. I did some experimenting with local filtered tap water, bottled water (glass bottle), and fresh spring water. I brewed some first and second flush Darjeelings, as well as some fairly high quality pu-erh, and some coffee using an aeropress. It took me about two weeks to get through all the possible combinations, and what I discovered was that the Darjeeling’s tasted noticeably better with the fresh spring water. It made some difference with the pu-erh, but it was not a considerable improvement, and I couldn’t tell any difference with the coffee. We have pretty good tap water here, and that is probably why the difference is not that big with the more robust teas. I recently moved from Brooklyn, and some of the experimenting I did there indicated that bottled spring water was quite a bit better than filtered tap. My opinion is that using good water is worth the effort, just as long as you pour it into the pot nice and cold before you boil it, and then you remove it from heat as soon as you get to a full boil.
I have an Aquasana countertop filter on my tap which removes the chlorine and other impurities, but doesn’t flatten the water like some of the better filters do. It makes a very noticeable difference in the quality of the flavour of our teas.
In Kentucky, we have hard water just about everywhere. In my area it’s mostly limestone that is the culprit. My tap water in my home has proven to be sufficient for most daily tea drinking demands. At work, I use a Brita filter and there is a subtle but very noticeable difference for the better using the filtered water.
Some people have complained that filtered water lacks oxygen. If you pour it back in forth between a couple of containers a few times you’ll quickly re-oxygenate the water.
Although it may seem more “natural” to use spring water, there are pitfalls to look out for. First, if it is coming out of a natural spring and is untreated you could be getting nasty stuff in it like pesticides or animal waste runoff or whatever. Probably just trace amounts but that can add up over time when dealing with stuff like mercury. Second, make sure that the water is actually coming from a spring. Some spring water that is advertised as such actually has other water mixed in that may or may not be spring water and it may come from a completely different location than what is advertised. In my humble opinion, you’re better off filtering the stuff from your tap and I say this as someone who grew up on a farm where our water supply came from a well.
I am using as well as many others Brita filters. The water is not too soft for tea brewing and very enjoyable. I can recommend it. Any filter that removes chlorine and other taste pollutants works really.
I’ve tried many alternative sources of water also: distiled water (really horrible experience), rain water (that would be great source, unofrtunatelly I live in the one of the most polluted parts of the Europe – so the water was full of ash) and stream water.
after I purchase a Brita I will brew tea using distilled, Spring, unfiltered tap and who knows maybe Rain water. Jim this is a good point you have brought up….
We buy bottled water, but I tend to use either filtered water (purchased in a jug) or my Brita for my tea water.
However, if I lived in upstate New York, like my wonderful grandparents, I could just use their well water from their tap. I do when I visit and I swear it’s the best.
I actually use the water that comes out of my deionized faucet at work; it’s not an active lab, so I don’t know that the water is actually deionized, but it tastes pretty good to me. I just tried it back to back with some bottled water and while there was a slight difference to me, it wasn’t much and I actually preferred the DI water. Right now it’s the most convenient option for me so I’m glad it doesn’t seem to be negatively impacting my tea.
Be careful about lab water — if your facility was built over 20 years ago, there may be some not-so-happy contaminants. I used to work in a 50+ year old building, and they used lead for all water pipes including drinking fountains. There was also a lot of iron deposit in our DI tap (I’m sure it was a covariate in all my statistics). I was in a BSL microbiology lab, though, so it wasn’t like I could consume anything in lab anyway (which was sad, because we were working with onions, which are tasty and wonderful).
Yeah, that’s true, but besides the water fountain which is pretty far away it’s the only water I would dare drink! The stuff that comes out of the regular tap is sometimes brown and extremely hard. I have thought about testing it to find out what’s really in it, and this has made me want to since I do drink so much of it. But it’s not a super old building, and there are labs on the same floor that use the DI water for their experiments, so I have a feeling it couldn’t be that off. I hope!
Great thread Jim.
Water is so important.
Where to start. In the UK our water (S.W. UK) is extremely hard as we are on chalk. Tastes great as water, but kills delicate tea. Fine with tea bag tea and milk. For loose leaf we filter twice. Huge improvement, but still a little hard. For tastings we use bottled mineral water, this is a lot more balanced and we don’t detect plastic tastes like many of the US posters. If we travel to Devon (further west), they are on a clay base and the water is very soft. Tap water has a little earthy/marshy taste, though filtering seems to clear this. Don’t mention London water – urrggg. Far too many hormones I guess ;)
China situation is very different, everywhere is water towers and the big 18L bottles. In the shop we only use (genuine) NongFu. At home sometimes a mix of filtered water or NongFu. Filtered is dull compared to the NongFu. We use the tap water for cooking but definitely not making tea. Shanghai water has improved but not to that degree.
Once we get out to the countryside it is a different matter. There is some excellent water still available in China. Wan Ling’s parents is very good – straight of the mountain.
We have some friends that water transported from different parts of China to drink. Certainly if you are quiet and concentrated you note the variation, but if you are a group, chatting and listening to music I find it difficult to notice a huge variation.
I live in LA, so our tap water is not that great. I mostly use bottled spring water for tea brewing. I’d love to use Volvic all the time, but it’s cost (and carbon footprint) prohibitive, so I mostly use a local brand of spring water which I have delivered to my house in plastic jugs. I have a little crock at home, and then I bring 1 gallon glass bottles of water to work for tea drinking there.
I have a decent three-stage (non-RO) filter, which has 2 types of carbon filter, as well as a special flouride filter. I use this for drinking, cooking, and more casual tea drinking.