I’m in the process of investigating which filtration system to purchase for my home use that would provide the optimal water for tea. Rather than spending big bucks for a whole house system, I’m looking for something to install at the kitchen sink. During my research, however, I did learn of a disturbing Rutgers University study that pointed out that we take in as many or more chemicals from showering than we do from drinking water. Not good news, but I’m trying to remain focused on taste, so that’s research for another time.
So where does one begin when considering water for tea? Lu Yu (733-804) is considered by many to be the most prominent and influential person in tea history. He lived through the peak of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and devoted his lifetime to the research and study of tea. His work culminated in the world’s first comprehensive treatise on tea, Cha Jing or The Classic of Tea. I’m reminded of Lu Yu’s recommendation that the best water for brewing tea comes from the center of a swiftly moving mountain stream. I don’t think I can guarantee the “center of a…mountain stream,” but I have got the stream. Here’s a photo from my home – our water comes from Mt Hood and the company that provides it is Crystal Springs.
What Lu Yu couldn’t have known is that in the 21st Century, ALL water – aside from well water – is treated water. A few years ago, the Hood River flooded, causing issues with the drinking water – at least that’s what they told us when they increased the chlorine to treat the water. Since then, I can hardly drink the water from the tap, although others appear unaffected. My neighbors, who have the same water piped into their homes, don’t notice any difference. I have discovered that as my palate becomes increasingly sophisticated through my tea experience, I’m much more sensitive to the taste of water and the chemicals used to treat it.
The Internet provides a wealth of information about filtration systems. For those with well water, suffice it to say that well water poses special problems for tea brewing due to its pH level. What I’ve gleaned is that if your water’s pH is about 8.5, it is defined as “hard water” and will brew bitter tea. If your water’s pH is above 7, it is recommended that you filter the water to prevent the unwanted flavor of extra minerals.
The next type of water to explore is bottled water. “Quality” spring water appears to be the optimal bottled water for tea, but some types are better than others. The best spring water for tea should be neutral in pH (about 7) and in flavor. And it should have a Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) content of 30 parts per million (PPM) or less. If you’ve been using a particular brand and find it delivers a great cup of tea, that should do it, without actually testing it.
If you’re deciding between spring water and good filtered tap water, I would encourage you to consider the cost, environmental impact, and health concerns of using bottled water. This brings me back to my tap water and my need to compare the different brands of filtration systems available for residential use. If I hadn’t grown weary of the process, I might explore a whole other type of water – alkaline ionized water – but frankly, I’ve decided to stick to basics. Another strike against bottled water is that it appears to be 100 times more acidic than tap water because during the distillation process, all of the essential alkalizing minerals have been taken out – this information was taken from a site selling alkaline ionized water systems, so consumer beware. Perhaps I’ll write a subsequent post on this topic and provide the necessary documentation to confirm or reject the information. I do know that in theory, if there is such a thing as alkaline ionized water, it would be much more desirable than acidic types of water, acting as an antioxidant by helping to maintain the body’s acid/alkaline balance, which is pretty bad, thanks to the average U.S. diet.
Based on information I found comparing the 10 best-selling home filtration systems, I’m going to purchase the under-the-sink Aquasana for $99.99. It will require me to lose my built-in soap dispenser, which is a drag, but it’s a small price to pay for having good quality tea water, free of harmful chemicals and neutral in taste, right at the sink. I’ll let you know once we’ve installed it. Perhaps I should look for a money-back guarantee…just in case.