J.E.A said

Brewing Tea At High Altitude

I live in Denver Colorado – The “Mile High City” – The boiling point of water here is roughly 202.5 degrees F - much cooler than the boiling point at sea level – which is typically 212 degrees F. — If I understand the science behind the boiling point and altitude, it is only possible to increase the temperature of boiling water at a particular altitude by using a pressure cooker or similar sealed container – which is impractical for tea.

So – my question is – when someone recommends the use of boiling water to brew a specific tea how do I adjust for my altitude. Do I change the amount of tea leaves for the batch or change the length of the brew time ???

8 Replies

I realize that this isn’t the most scientific answer, and other folks may have a better one, but here’s my take:

I grew up living on the west coast at sea level, drinking copious amounts of tea with my family. We used an electric kettle, which was given to me when I started grad school in South Dakota, in a city with an elevation of 3000 ft (boiling point around 206 F). I drank a lot of tea there as well, never even thinking about discrepancies in the temperature of the water, and I didn’t notice a difference. During that time, I went to various internships and field camps that were in the 8,000 – 10,000 foot range, and continued to drink tea with water that was boiling below 200 F. I never noticed a difference there either. I am now back in the pacific northwest, not far above sea level (about 200 feet), drinking just as much tea, and I still haven’t noticed any change.

Long story short, the tea seems fine so long as the water has hit boiling (for those that require boiling water). So, unless I’m just a terribly insensitive outlier, I wouldn’t worry about it too much! :D

Edited to add: I never changed how much tea I used (bagged or loose) or my preferred brew times at any of the altitudes I lived/stayed at.

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Kristin said

I live near Park City, UT at about 6500+ ft and my boiling temp is between 198 and 200. I don’t make any adjustments. It seems to be fine. I don’t notice any difference when I make tea at work down in Salt Lake City (boiling temp around 205).

I do worry, however, that things that program to boil & brew at specific temps (like Breville tea maker) won’t really work here.

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J.E.A said

Thanks for the replys –
I grew up in Pennsylvania at about 1400 ft – boiling point about 209 -
The tea I drink there when visiting my parents tastes very different to me – much better actually – I always assumed it was related to the boiling point – but now that I hear others have not had that experience, I realize I overlooked another variable – the water.
The water at my Pennslyvania home is well water — iron rich but processed via a water softener — In Colorado, I drink city water that is chlorinated – and pretty hard and mineral rich – I now wonder if the difference I notice in tea is due to that ??

Kristin said

Yeah, the water at my office (despite being filtered), doesn’t taste as good as the water at home. At home, we have tasty, but slightly hard, water from an underground glacial aquifer (sp?) that they bottle and sell to others… right out of our tap. And the tea tastes better at home, no matter what I do at the office when boiling the water (microwave vs kettle, etc).

PS – Don’t think you should move to Park City now for the awesome water, because Park City water is awful. I live just outside Park City. lol. Didn’t want someone to visit and think I was crazy!

Yep ya’ gotta love chlorinated water! My folks got a water softener a year or two back and it’s so amazing for your skin! When I shower my skin doesn’t feel tight and itchy anymore.

cebyler said

Kristin, I work in Park City and I’m glad you clarified at the end there because when I read that first bit I did think you were crazy, LOL.

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That seems like a good possibility – maybe try boiling some bottled water you like in your kettle and see if it tastes better in your tea than tap water?

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Lala said

Boiling point is a relative term. So boiling point of water does not solely refer to 212F, it just refers to any temperture at which a liquid vaporizes rapidly. So it doesn’t matter what temperature the liquid boils at, becuase that temperature will change based on many variables.

Long story short, it doesn’t matter if the water boils at 212F or 200F, the same vaporization (boiling) is happening in the water.

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