The first response I have when someone asks me to explain why water is important to tea infusion is to tell them to brew the same tea with two different sources of water (you can actually see the difference in the photo to the left). The taste results are dramatic.
Tea infused with low mineral content water, water under 50-60 parts per million (ppm), will have a bitter, dry mouth taste. Youâ€™ll have decent aroma but something will be lacking. If you infuse with water containing over 250 ppm of minerals the aroma will be greatly diminished and the flavor will be murky. Iced tea will cloud over depending on the type of tea used and the alkalinity and hardness levels present.
Infusion with water at a controlled mineral level around 150 ppm will be vastly superior in flavor and aroma. You need to taste it to believe it. The ability to distinguish the subtleties of the leaf that make the beverage so enjoyable jump out at you.
The confusion I confront in the water treatment business is the lack of knowledge about what water is and how to manipulate it. If you ask a tea provider to tell you about the particular tea youâ€™re interested in he/she will have multiple facts to share about origin, location, season, temperature etc. If you ask him about what water to use all you get is this blank stare or some amorphous statement about spring water or fresh water.
In fact, there is an exact formula that when used the product will be at its optimum of color taste and aroma. The ability to repeat the taste experience anywhere suddenly becomes possible.
One of the problems I have been informed of is when tea buyers go to origin and cup a particular tea. They purchase it and get it back to their store only to find it has a completely different flavor. The problem often is not the tea but the water it was infused in.
There are all kinds of â€œtalesâ€ about water for tea. All of which are fanciful and totally lacking in specifics, but all lead you to the conclusion that water quality is a defining characteristic for great tea.
The specifics of any water can be duplicated once it has been analyzed.
As a water treatment company we are able to install and maintain equipment that has the ability to customize water for flavor enhancement. Water customization can optimize tea, coffee, bread and even soda not to mention the obvious improvement in drinking water itself and the quality of ice made with the water.
City, or tap, water has mineral content levels called TDS, total dissolved solids, that can vary from 8 ppm to well over 1000ppm. The most common levels falling within the 45 to 750 range. City water may vary from one side of the street to the other and from one time of year to another. pH values in water may vary from 6 pH to 9.5 pH. From an east coast experience I can tell you that tea brewed at a pH of 9.5 will cloud over rapidly and have a horrible taste based on pH level alone. This experience is an exception but when dealing with water the exceptions always seem to be there. Encountering a city or â€œnaturalâ€ water that is of the proper levels and mix of minerals is rare but you can get within a range that may be acceptable to you. The test will be in the cupping comparison between one water quality and another. I have cupped with non cuppers that in a side by side comparison will tell me that even at a 1 ppm change they can detect one cup as superior to another.