Jim Marks said

Sourcing your water

(I only just today realized there even is a discussion space, so pardon me while I start a few threads at one time.)

Water. The single most important aspect of making tea. After all, what ends up in your mouth is almost exclusively water, not tea pot, not tea cup, not tea leaves and not technique.

We have a full blown “under the sink” style filtration system on our municipal tap supply which at least ensures that we are getting a source that doesn’t taste especially of anything and isn’t dangerous to drink (Houston municipal supply actually has radiation in it, believe it or not), but I can’t help but wonder if I’m wasting money on fine tea leaves when I’m brewing them with tap water — albeit well filtered.

I know that the ideal is fresh spring water and that any moving (living) water supply is preferred to still water. But we live nowhere near a spring (although Spring is a suburb of Houston, I think they probably paved over the namesake long ago) and the rivers around here are far less safe to drink than the municipal supply.

I know that distilled water is disastrous for brewing because it is way to soft and flat.

I know that out and out mineral water will impart too much flavor of its own and hide the tea.

If one can find a bottled water that claims to be spring water (and let’s assume for the sake of discussion it really is), is spring water that has been through a bottling and storage process really better than fresh, filtered tap water?


58 Replies
Kristin said

I’m either lazy or cheap or both… I just go with tap water at home and the filtered water at work.

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Kay Kanada said

Of course not. Bottled water tastes like the plastic it was bottled in, and that’s not a taste I would impart on myself or my teas.

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Jim Marks said

You can get bottled water in glass :-)

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I don’t know if bottled water is better. I don’t buy the stuff anymore since I’m trying to decrease my plastic consumption. I’ve been using unfiltered tap water for all my cooking and tea making and it’s all fine to me. I think the water supply here is supposed to among the best in the country so maybe it’s just because of my location.

Also, I think the ancients recommended spring water back when spring water was clean. It might not apply these days with all the pollution we’ve got. :(

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Geoffrey said

I find that the water makes a huge difference… But I live without a car and there is not a grocery within reasonable walking distance for me to want to haul significant quantities of fluid, so bottled water is too inconvenient for me at this point. If a real bottled spring water were available and easy for me to obtain, I’d be compelled to use it for the finest teas I have; though I’m not otherwise interested in purchasing bottled water at all.

Currently I’m using the Minneapolis municipal tap water run through a Brita filter, and it suffices for my enjoyment. I’ve had the same tea over at a friend’s house, where he uses the same tap water unfiltered, and there is a noticeable difference in the quality of the tea brewed. I’ve also found, as a result of being lazy, that re-boiled water can come out almost as flat as distilled water sometimes. By “re-boiled” I mean water that I had boiled in my kettle the previous evening, and what was left over I boiled up again the next morning. Basically, water that has been boiled and allowed to cool all the way down, and then boiled again. I think the best results with what I’m using come from water that has just been run through the filter (and so has recently moved), and is then freshly boiled.

Best water I ever tasted was from a mountain stream coming off of Mt. Yale in Colorado. We filled up our vessels on a hike up the mountain with a basic camping filter. That was the most “alive” water I’ve ever had the chance to drink. This was over ten years ago, and I still remember it vividly. I wish I could brew up some of my best tea with that water now…

I guess I am buying a Brita.

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Dorothy said

I agree with using a brita filter. For me it’s more than good enough, and paying for so called “spring” water is not worth it. I’m sure filtering your own water is more cost effective as well.

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BubbleDrae said

I used to laugh at people back home. There was a very nice park in the mountains, with a stream and some pools you could wade in. Just off the side of the road, there is a little stone fountain “spring” where cars back up with all sorts of people filling up containers. But if you look just up the hill from the fountain, there’s a little stone house. Yep. Water treatment facility. That particular water has more chlorine than what comes out of their taps. shrugs

For me, the filtered stuff off my fridge door tastes fine, so long as I don’t re-boil it. I did taste tests with various bottles, even, and the tap is the same as others.

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Jim Marks said

@Garret yes… I mentioned specifically in my post that we have a very sophisticated filter on our tap. I’d also prefer not to turn this into a discussion of people’s personal theories on the relations between water additives and health but would much rather talk about what makes a good cup of tea. I did specifically craft the question to contrast highly filtered tap vs spring water.

I am curious why so many think you can only get bottled water in plastic.

How else does spring water come? I’ve only ever seen it in plastic bottles. Is there a brand that comes in glass?

Uniquity said

I think it might depend on where you live and what your local stores source. In Nova Scotia, for example, I can’t think of a single bottled water I’ve seen in glass. The beau once had a very expensive bottle of iceberg water which may have been glass, but I honestly don’t remember. Not every town, province or state sources the same brands. In PEI there are no aluminum cans allowed, their pop all comes in glass bottles. In NS, glass bottles are a rarity for anything other than alcohol. Nonetheless, I try not to buy bottled water if I can avoid it, as it seems ludicrous to pay for something that I can get at home and filter as needed. When I visit my grandmother, I go to the spring behind her field and get water there, but when at home I deal with tap run through a Brita.

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Garret said

Sorry Jeff. I removed the post. If your system is reverse osmosis, it too, will lead to a flatter tasting cup of tea due to the fact that most of the minerals have been stripped. In that case, looking for good spring water in glass bottles may be a better option for better tasting tea as long as it does not say prepared by R.O. in the small print. And paying attention to the bottled on date may help get the freshest water.

In my opinion, nicely filtered tap water is usually better than anything out of plastic bottles for taste in tea, cooking and drinking, as long as it is not RO. Whenever someone comes into the tea shop and tells us they can’t quite get their tea to give up good flavor, it is usually because they are using RO treated water. In that case, a freshly packaged bottle of true spring water gives them better tasting results.

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Oh, man, tap water is really different in Texas — I live in Idaho/Washington, and when I visited Dallas in 2005, the tap water tasted like Aspergillus (fungi)… but in most places in Idaho, tap water is pretty good — there are minerals, but it’s not too hard. It’s really good for drinking straight, but can really calcify a tea pot. It’s worth living in Idaho, though, since the best water for tea that I have tried has been potable water from an underground spring in the Sawtooth mountains. I say live in Idaho. It’s full of farmers and hippies, but it’s worth it for good tea (and potatoes).

….Or perhaps a Brita filter is good, too. I find it easier to live in the Pacific Northwest, but everyone else I know refuses to use bottled water for tea — perhaps it’s the kind of minerals added to bottled water in comparison to minerals in tap water?

I lived in Idaho for many years and I have to agree wholeheartedly. The water in the Sawtooth’s is the best tasting water I’ve ever had. Makes me thirsty just to think about it. Where in Idaho do you live?

I grew up in Twin Falls, but I’m now in Eastern Washington/Northern Idaho. I definitely prefer Southern Idaho water, though I have a soft spot for the Palouse’s scenery.

Dallas water is absolutely horrid. I used to live in the deep south region of Texas and the tap water wasn’t too bad. The best water in Texas is in the hill country, around the Austin area.

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