The type of water you use to brew your tea has an enormous impact on the taste, clarity and colour of the tea. In the first known book written about tea, Lu Yu (733-804), affectionately known in the tea world as the “Sage of Tea” or “Patron Saint of Tea”, wrote that the best water for tea is spring water that flows slowly over granite or stone. He also wrote that such water is soft, pure, has a high oxygen content and produces the perfect cup of tea.
Since few of us will live near a spring where we can get water of the quality recommended by Lu Yu, the question is whether bottled water is a good alternative. Soft bottled water, with a pH of around 7, tends to produce a liquor that is bright and clear and a flavour that is lively and brisk. The main advantage of bottled water is that it is consistent and the information you need to make a decision (mineral content, pH, etc.) is on the bottle.
A white paper on the best water for tea by the UK Tea Academy looked at different types of water with varying pH and mineral content. They compared them for aroma, taste, clarity, colour etc. for different types of tea.
The report came out strongly in favour of filtered water. This does not surprise us as we have been using Brita filters in The English Tearoom in Stuttgart and at home for many years and customers often comment that our teas taste different when they try them in our shop to when they make them at home.
Our thanks to Jane Pettigrew and our friends at the UK Tea Academy for sharing the white paper.
Although tap water – which tends to be hard – is probably not ideal for tea, some teas are better suited to brewing with it than others. So while we would never recommend making a first flush Darjeeling or a delicate green tea with tap water, the tannins in a strong blend such as Irish Breakfast tea or a malty Assam tea will bind with the calcium and magnesium in hard water to create a stronger flavour. This stronger flavour is why most British blends are drunk with milk.
Oxygen rich water
Whatever type of water you use, it’s important not to reheat water that has already been boiled. This is because the best flavour comes from oxygen-rich water, which is not the case with boiled water.