Lessons learned the hard way.
So being somewhat new to tea and trying to learn as much as I can about brewing a good cup of tea I have been researching as much as I can. Several places I have looked at mention the importance of water quality and not to use the dreaded tap water but I have been brewing cups of tea at home and really haven’t noticed that much of a difference between tap water and buying bottled spring water. I thought maybe that is was cause my palette just wasn’t that sensitive. Boy was I wrong.
Recently I took a trip out to visit some family in southern CA and took some teas, my infuser wrapped in a paper towel carried in my pocket, a couple spare tea mugs, just in case. I was told that there was proper tea-ware there but I had a feeling. Well after a long uncomfortable night with very little sleep I finally arrive at my destination, craving a nice hot cuppa Irish Breakfast Tea. I was assured that their tap water with the expensive filters was very good water and was eager to try their tea press. Well the first cup was brewed, couldn’t find any sugar and they only had soy milk. Well I thought let’s taste it anyway, gag choke sputter this isn’t remotely like what I make at home. I know I didn’t over steep it but it was the nastiest flat and bitter tasting tea I had ever had. Ok, let’s change brewing methods, heated the water in a stainless steel sauce pan, broke out my tea ware, very little improvement. Added vanilla coffee creamer was able to choke down about 1/3 of a cup.
I had to go get some spring water. There was no other possible way around it. That turned out to be an adventure unto itself between getting my eyebrows waxed, winding up in Little Saigon the Friday before Tet Festival, finding a little tea shop tucked away in a corner with terrific prices :) I did what any tea addict would do there :P (there will be reviews coming as soon as I find my camera again & I love dragonwell.) Finally made it back at 9:30 pm with my spring water. Had my first sips of a proper cup of morning tea shortly before bed time. It was a long hard day.
So my lesson that I learned the hard way was to always carry my own tea supplies, make sure that I have spring water ASAP and to pick up any milk and sugar I might want with my tea. Also to be thankful that I do have decent tap water for brewing tea.
It was a real eye opening experience when it comes to tea and water quality.
So what hard lessons have you learned about enjoying tea?
I learned the hard way not to use an electric whisk when frothing matcha in a matcha bowl. It was too powerful and it made a mess in the kitchen. Apparently I should use a tall glass instead of the matcha bowl.
Now I only use the matcha whisk.
I’ve had that happen to me too. I always use tap water for tea at home, and when I visit my friend we use her tap water too. Then one time when we were house-sitting for someone together, the tea (we brought our own) tasted AWFUL.
I’m grateful that my tap water is suitable, becaue I drink through so much tea I’d need a mortgage just on spring water if that was what I had to use. lol.
My wife won’t use our tap water but I like it just fine. It is very hard and sometimes a little too much chlorine. When we would visit her parents (both gone now) three hours away, their water was so soft it was disgusting. The water in the whole town was that way. My wife agreed. Spring water was mandatory. Maybe it is all in what you get used to. At home I can’t tell the difference between spring water tea and tap.
For me microwave heated water is the same way. I can tell the difference and I don’t like it. My wife thinks I nuts on this one. I have learned if you heat in the microwave you can improve the taste by holding the heated water up high and pour into another cup. This puts air back in the water or something. It definitely helps IMHO.
I read something once in a novel where someone “left the water on the counter to sweeten before drinking it.” Later, a friend told me that much of the chlorine-type chemicals dissipate after a while so I should wait a while to water my plants. We always had to leave water out for a day before giving it to the turtles. I wonder if that would help with tea water? Also, some people swear that sterling silver sweetens water. I wonder if a silverplate pitcher would do the same? Those can be had very cheaply.
I live in an area of very fresh, clean tapwater, so I never really registered what it could do to your cup until I relocated far north and farther into the interior to work for a summer. The tap water there was so incredibly hard it left a layer of white sludge at the bottom. It got to the point that I only made tea at work, because we had a water cooler I could take from.
The grocery store sold the very large tanks of water with their own tap that you could bring home, and every time I went I considered shirking all other groceries just to buy the one, and carrying that home (it was quite a walk from my apartment to the grocery store, but the need was great). I’d never made a habit of drinking bottled water, let alone relied on it at this point.
This is the case of where I visited as far as the white layer of sludge on the bottom. When I was still living there I tried to get a hardness reading and stopped at 800 ppm. I tried that nasty stuff plus what was coming out of the reverse osmosis filter. Both were horrendous.
The problem is that water is not just water. There are varying amounts of all kinds of minerals in water, and it is different everywhere you go! You get used to your tea tasting a certain way, then you are travelling, and all of a sudden the same tea is an entirely different experience!
And watch out for spring waters. They contain the same variability of minerals that tap water does. There is nothing inherently better about spring water. Quite often your tap water is coming from the exact same spring!
Yeah there was some water company that got sued for selling bottled tap water and advertising it as mineral or spring water or something. I think it was Aquafina?
It’s not so much the minerals that concern me and that I think affects the taste so much as I think that it is all of the other chemicals in the water. Where I was visiting was in the Los Angeles area and I seriously doubt that their tap water is from any sort of spring. Now where I currently live that could be entirely possible.
I totally understand that water is not just water. After several years of fish keeping I finally resorted to using RODI water and adding my own minerals to get the right water quality. Now I am thinking about using some of that reconstituted water and making tea. It does have a slightly sweet taste.
Now I am curious if those of us that can use our tap water live in rural, suburban or urban environments?
Sillyvicen, what is RODI? Is that reverse osmosis/ deionized?
Here at the lab, my coworkers prefer to use deionized water for our tea because it is easier on the water kettle. Not for taste preference. With no mineral content, the water kettles (just a small, plug-in type) do not develop any deposits from iron or hard water minerals, and it does not corrode/pit the metal.
In terms of different waters from different places-
I used to live in metro Atlanta. Their water comes from surface (river) water, so it had very little mineral content and a low pH.
Now I live in a medium sized metro area in NW Florida. The water is all from aquifers, and it had a moderate level of minerals.
However, the chemicals added to the water for sanitation purposes are very streamlined across the country, from urban to suburban. There is a lot less variation in what we add to water to treat it for human consumption than there is in the initial mineral content. And still in most rural areas people are getting water from wells (and mostly untreated).
Yep RODI = reverse osmosis deionized. My grandparents live in NE Florida and get their water from a well. It is treated with sulfur aka smells like rotten eggs, I don’t even like showering in it let alone drinking it or heaven forbid making tea with it.
In L.A. they have very hard alkaline water. I haven’t really tested my tap water out here to see what I am dealing with. Hmmmm now I am wondering if and how pH would influence the taste of tea? What minerals in the water enhance the taste of tea and which ones aren’t good for tea? I feel like I am opening a can o’ worms.