Water. Water everywhere . . . but which drop to drink?
I don’t know about you, but water for tea is making me crazy!
We know how important the quality of water is for making a proper cup of tea. Who gets to judge what “good” water is? In the past several years, alkaline water (water with a high pH level) has been the rage. Without getting into too much detail, most of us have been sold a bill of goods which proclaims high alkaline water being the ‘cure all’ for almost everything – including cancer. Or, that cancer cannot thrive in an alkaline body.
Scientists measure the hardness of water using a pH scale, which measures the hydrogen-ion concentration in the liquid. Water with a low pH is more acidic, while water with a higher pH is harder- or more alkaline – meaning it is able to neutralize acids.
The pH scale measures substances on a scale from 1 to 14, with 7 being neutral. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends households have a water pH of between 5.5 and 9. Even within this range, however, “hard water causes challenges.”
If you’ve seen hard water build-up in your faucets and and in your kettles, you can’t help wondering if that is the only “challenge” of hard water?
I’ve known friends with 4 to 5 thousand dollar water machines sitting on their countertops – all swearing that high alkaline water was the ‘fountain of youth’, the key to a long and healthy life. Such claims have been disputed.
I recently purchased a far less-expensive water filtering machine because I wanted water with higher alkaline. I bought it after seeing the results of most bottled waters – just about all of them tested very high in acidity – and I was surprised and disappointed. Sure, it’s clean water, but it’s very high in acidity (low on the pH scale.)
What I really want to know is: What water pH level makes the best tea?
Sorry, I don’t have the answer.
I’ve been experimenting for months, but am not yet happy with the results. San Diego tap water makes lousy tea – this I know for sure! I wanted to stop buying individual bottles of water – this I was also sure about. I didn’t want to buy water from the water store anymore either – especially after it tested very high in acidity. But I liked the taste of it, and I liked the taste of the tea I made with it.
My tap water tests neutral – green in color (see pH color chart above) and around 7 on the pH scale. For the most part, this is good. I ran it through my water filtering machine and it came out the same – green and still tasting lousy. The only words that adequately describe our tap water are: filmy, slimy and thick. Of course the tea felt the same way to me. It was not so much a taste thing as it was a ‘feel’ thing. Not one I enjoy.
Back to the water store. Run that water through my machine: Ah, much better. It tested yellow to lime green going in, but blue coming out of the machine – and the tea? So much better! I found the tea to be crisp, clean and fresh – feeling and tasting. For me, it was a happy medium. Good tasting water and tea – just a tad higher in alkaline -but it still meant trips back and forth to the water store. For good tea, I can do that.
Our tea sage, poet and scholar, Lu Yu said, “The best water for brewing tea comes from the center of a swiftly moving mountain stream.” Now wouldn’t that be ideal!
I’d love to hear from you about your water experiences for tea. Has anyone else experimented with higher pH water – harder water – that you’d be willing to share? If there is any scientific research on harder – or softer – water releasing more taste from the tea leaves – I’d love to know this.
Loading Image: Accompanying images courtesy of the author.