Is water quality really that important?
I’m about a year into my loose-leaf drinking phase, and to date, I haven’t been very particular about the water I’ve used.
But as I’ve read more about the physics of tea steeping, a lot of the writing has emphasized water quality. I get that water with greatly different chemical make-ups can affect quality, but is the difference between my fridge’s filter and the tap going to really cause a different flavor?
I guess the question is about degree: given that my water comes from the city either way, is there much I can personally do to improve my water and have any noticeable impact on taste?
Edit: In case it helps, I use a cast iron tea kettle with strainer. To date, I’ve been drinking mostly Indian black teas, but I did have a really good Nepal Black from Davids. Water temp is boiling and kettle is pre-heated.
Get some RO water (basically something close to distilled water), and a bottle of some mountain spring mineral water. Brew the same tea in your tap/RO/mineral waters and compare. If the tea brewed in your tap tastes fine compared to the others, you needn’t do anything.
In my case, my tap water is too hard, hence I use purchased RO & mineral water to brew. Others who have poor quality tap often purchase a water filter.
Chlorine is the big killer, that will absolutely wreck your tea flavor. You want to get that out, most home filters do a decent enough job.
The best water is bottled spring water. After that probably filtered tap water.
I use RO water then put bamboo charcoal and mineral drops back into it. Its on amazon, its great lakes salt with the salt taken out, it works.. reasonably well. A few good tasters got together and tested it, though it was different from bottled, it wasnt worse per se, not like just RO or Tap which were noticeably worse.
Interesting, so in theory, if my fridge filter is removing chlorine, then it would have a big impact.
I get that bottled water is going to be better than tap, my question is whether there is likely to be a noticeable difference between tap and fridge.
Sounds like you would say yes because of the chlorine?
Yeah good bottled water, has lots of dissolved minerals, as does spring water. This is good.. Chlorine gives it that pool smell, it absolutely destroys the aroma of tea. Yes if your filter is removing 95%+ of the chlorine, you are good to go.
Bear in mind that the amount of chlorine in tap water varies a lot not only between countries but often between counties and even depending on how close to the water station you live (they try to balance the chlorine to be enough for people who live furthest away without overdosing those living close). In other words, one should check ones local conditions. I have the privilege of living where very little chlorine is added due to excellent water sources, though there is still some.
Apart from that, a lot of the chlorine disappears when the water is boiled (as it often is when making tea). I have read that you should boil it for 3 minutes to be sure, not certain how accurate that is. Lastly you can actually neutralize chlorine chemically by adding a very small amount of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to the water. I believe one gram ascorbic acid will neutralize 1 milligram chlorine per liter in 400 liters of water so very, very little is needed. I think it would marginally lower the pH also, but I never actually tried this for making tea.
Sometimes I use bottled water, generally Poland Springs because that is what is available here for the most part. I also use filtered water from a Zero Water filter. It does a very good job and comes with a meter to test your water. They mean it when they say it gets out all particulate matter from the water.
Big YES for me – YMMV.
I used to live in a small town in the eastern alps with more than 20 different springs all over the place and did countless comparative tastings during those years (my kind of fun).
BTW: teachat has been down for two days now. Any idea what’s going on over there?
Lucky that sounds like water heaven haha! I’ve noticed it’s been down as well…wondering what’s going on
TC is back up. I use a Spring water. I have found it to be better than my tap-water. There is a spring near my North Carolina family place that I intend to bring back 30 gallons or so the next time I visit. Straight from the mountain and cold as it comes out.
That’s by far the best way to do it! I have family in Maine, and when I lived in New England I would fill up 20 gallons of water straight from the poland spring. Hell the whole lake was spring water you can use for showers etc…
I religiously use Crystal Geyser bottled spring water. I have had the best taste results from it, and haven’t looked back since. This can be found at most Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, and many other places.
I find a large difference between my home tap water and the filtered water at work. Some teas I love at home with my tap water and can’t stand it at work. Some are the other way around. Depends on your tap water :)
Filtered tap water all the way for me. Purified water and even some brands of spring water lack minerals and make flat tasting tea.
I’ve noticed a marked difference with spring water as well (Hinckley Springs). Not one that I like. Too many minerals in it. The tea still tastes okay, just not as good as with purified water. But it develops that mineral scum on the top of the liquid surface and it then sticks to the sides of the teaware. Not attractive when serving in glass teapots. :)
And like others, I find RO water to be flat. Some minerals are needed but really hard water isn’t the best plan, usually.
All according to taste, however. :)
Agreed, RO water is not ideal for brewing tea. Please see quotes below. If an RO system is necessary due to water quality issues and you want to enjoy your tea without hauling bottled spring water, then a re-mineralization filter (https://steepster.com/teaware/zaria/68637-everest-alkaline-water-filter) is highly recommended after an RO system to bring the TDS level into the following range:
“Water with 50 – 150 ppm total dissolved solids (TDS) or 1 to 3 grains hardness provides the best results, according to the Tea Association of the USA." http://www.teaandcoffee.net/0609/tea.htm
Per David Duckler of Verdant Tea, reverse osmosis water is not the best for brewing tea:
“Putting aside for a moment the influences on tea before it is dried and finished, tea also goes through a second “flavoring” process as you brew it and sip it. First, you have to consider the water you use, and take into account all the flavors it offers. Straight reverse-osmosis water is never recommended in tea brewing, because it is so pure that it tastes flat. If you use a spring water or filtered tap water, the flavor of this water will come through, contributing sweetness, texture, or in undesirable cases, metal and chemical traces to your tea. No matter what, you are “blending” your tea with a water that you hope will help bring out the best that the tea has to offer.”
Published on April 26th, 2012 by David Duckler
Garret Sorensen, Mandala Tea
Uploaded on Sep 30, 2011
“The type of water you use makes a HUGE difference in both the aroma and flavor of your tea.”
Extremely important. You’d be surprised how many people I have advised about water quality come back and tell me it changed their whole experience of tea. Water is everything. Without good water even the best tea in the world will taste lifeless and flat.
Not sure where you are… tap water filtered or not is typically garbage. If you live somewhere with good source water and can remove the chemicals with a good filter then maybe. Brita and refrigerator filters are crap.
I’m in Florida. I’m guessing our water is more on the “crap” side. We use a refrigerator filter.
My experience of water in Florida is that it’s crap… Refrigerator filters will improve the taste slightly. Look for an alkaline water store or delivery or filter rental service. I think Whole Foods (insert hate here) also sells alkaline high PH water from their dispensers, so you could go with your own jugs.
If you don’t want to haul water indefinitely, another option is to test your water and then buy a filter for your specific water-quality issue(s):
Water filter buying guide
Last updated: May 2013
What’s in your water?
“One way to find out is to check your consumer confidence report, or CCR. The EPA requires utilities to provide a CCR to their customers every year. You may also find the CCR printed in your newspaper or posted on your local government website.”
“Also, a CCR tells you about the water in your municipality, but not necessarily about what’s coming out of your particular tap. Only testing your home supply can do that. Homeowners with a well on their property face even greater uncertainty, because such water isn’t surveyed or reported on in CCRs. Call the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline (800-426-4791) for the names of state-certified testing labs or for your local health authority, which might offer low-cost or free test kits, or check out ”_blank" rel=“nofollow” href=“http://www.epa.gov/safewater”>www.epa.gov/safewater. Ultimately, you might find that you don’t need a water filter.
It’s important to know what contaminants are in your water so that you can match the filter to the problem."
If a reverse-osmosis filter is needed to solve your water quality issues, be sure to buy one that includes an alkaline remineralization filter such as this one:
Alternatively, an alkaline remineralization filter can be added to any RO system.
This one is NSF certified:
@looseTman Great info… I am thinking it would be great to do RO with a alkaline re-mineralizer for myself.
Thanks Scott! It’s worked very well for us since Oct, 2012. I wouldn’t want to think how many gallons I would’ve lugged home since then!
It’s worth noting, that I never heard of anyone actually doing a proper blind-test with different water. So obviously if you buy an expensive (or even cheap) filter, or buy a particular brand of bottled water, or get a jug of collected spring water from a friend, or whatever, you are going to be biased towards the result because you know that something you expect to have a positive effect has changed. This is a human trait and you can’t get around it, save for proper double-blind tests.
Like so much else in tea, water quality probably does have an effect but nobody makes any blind tests so it’s all anecdotes and the placebo effect can never be accounted for.
I’ve been running experiments since this thread began (though not blind) with variable results. My big problem is that I drink mostly puerh, and every steep is different, even when I don’t change the water.
It doesn’t matter what tea you use. Do only one steep while performing comparison testing. A single western style steep of puerh in your case.
A blog post suggesting 5 minute competition style brewing for comparison tests: