Tea is 98.5%  water

The quality of the water you use is equally important as the quality of your tea. You could steep fantastic teas in poor water and the result would always be less than optimum.
Students of tea have always been aware of water’s importance in the art of making good tea since Lu Yu, author of Cha Ching in 780 A.D, stumbled upon a glorious spring where the water was extremely clear and clean. 

The Chinese tea sage brewed tea with this spring water and found the tea tasted unexpectedly better than usual. Even the early settlers of Manhattan had designated tea water pumps to be used only for drawing water for making tea.

Most Americans are fortunate to have safe and affordable municipal water but that rarely means tap water is best for brewing tea until it has the chlorine removed. How can you enhance the quality of your home tap water for steeping tea? 

Here are four initial observations you can make concerning your water: 

The look of the water.  Is there anything floating in the water or is it off-color?
The smell of the water. Are there traces aromas of sulfur or chlorine?
The taste of the water. Can you taste any dominant minerals? 
The visual signs of water hardness.  Do you see heavy calcium buildup in your water kettle or around your faucets?  

Unless you have extremely hard water, the easiest solution for most consumers is a one or two-stage filter system. Simple countertop water filters will remove visible solids and chlorine and improve the taste of most water. But, they do not substantially alter the mineral content of water known as total dissolved solids or TDS

Mineral content can be removed by a reverse osmosis system that gives you totally pure water. The downside is that reverse osmosis removes all the minerals and that’s not the best water for making tea. Some mineral content is needed—just not too much or too little. 

You can check your water sources with two inexpensive and easy to use gadgets—a TDS meter ($15) and a PH meter ($27).  Both are available online at sites such as Amazon.

Here is the ideal tea water analysis if you have your water analyzed:

80 ppm Total Hardness
No Chlorine or Iron
150 ppm Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)
40 ppm Alkalinity
6-8 pH

Does bottled spring water make the best tea? 

Be aware that all waters are not created equal.  At my recent TEA101 Masterclass, we used a TDS meter to check the total dissolved solids in bottled distilled water, drinking water, and spring water from one national grocer.   

The distilled water, of course, showed zero TDS, the drinking water registered a desirable 170 ppm, but the spring water tested at 450 ppm, too high for good tea making.  Check the bottler’s website for an analysis statement and compare it to the ideal analysis shown above.  Spring water may sound like the most natural source but those waters often have high TDS and PH levels.  Distilled water has no mineral content and is too flat for tea making.

One of the leading water designers for the professional coffee and tea trade is Cirqua Customized Water. They provide water used in brewing samples at major trade shows including World Tea Expo. Scientists at Cirqua have a developed a packet of liquid minerals called The Formula that can be added to a gallon of distilled or reverse osmosis treated water to ensure the proper balance for tea or coffee brewing. 

You can read more about water for tea and The Formula here

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