While water makes up the bulk of any cup of tea, most people may not even think twice about the various ways it can alter your tea experience. For this week’s blog post, we will touch upon the importance of water in tea for both Matcha and other Japanese green teas. To start off, many believe that all teas should be made with boiling water – one of the most common misconceptions of making tea. Different types of teas have slightly different water temperatures for optimal steeping. The quality of the water, such as whether the water is hard or soft, or the amount of minerals in the water, can also provide different results.
When steeping more delicate teas such as white, green, and even oolong, they tend to have slightly cooler optimal steeping temperatures than boiling. Other teas, such as black tea, rooibos tea, and herbal teas can be steeped with boiling water. Using pre-boiling water for delicate teas prevent the release of tannins, which bring out the bitter, astringent flavor in the tea. To get the most out of your cup of tea, steep the different type of teas with their respective ideal water temperatures (listed below).
The quality of water is an aspect of tea making that is most often overlooked. When steeping any type of tea, soft or softer water is typically ideal. Hard water, which some may be familiar with as the lime scale that develops at the bottom of a water kettle, contains more minerals than soft water. The minerals add flavonoids to the tea, which may mask the flavor or give the tea a cloudy look. Using soft water will allow for the full, true flavors of the tea to come out, whether the tea is of good quality or not.
Here at Aiya, we strive to provide correct education on Matcha and Japanese Green Teas to ensure proper and optimal tea enjoyment. In this paragraph, we will touch upon what type of water should be used for these types of teas specifically. When preparing a high quality Japanese green tea such as Matcha, Gyokuro, or high quality Sencha, prepare these teas with water lower in temperature, with a longer steep time (Whisk for Matcha). Using a lower temperature water ensures you don’t release the tannins in the tea, which make the tea bitter. Since Matcha and Gyokuro are both shade grown, they possess an elevated amount of the amino acid L-theanine, which gives the teas a naturally sweet flavor when prepared with the correct water temperature. When preparing a lower quality Japanese green tea such as Genmaicha, Kukicha, Hojicha, Konacha, etc., using water with a higher temperature is sufficient, though the ideal steeping time is shorter than those of high quality green tea. Over-steeping teas can cause the tea to become bitter in taste. Below are the recommended water temperature and steep times for the various Japanese green teas:
- Matcha – 180℉ – whisk and drink
- Gyokuro – 140℉ – 2 minutes
- Sencha – 176℉ – 1-1.5 minutes
- Deep Steam Sencha – 176℉ – 30 seconds
- Matcha Infused Sencha – 176℉ 1-1.5 minutes
- Matcha Infused Genmaicha – 194℉ – 1 minute
- Kukicha – 194℉ – 1 minute
- Hojicha – 212℉ – 30 seconds
- Konacha – 176℉ – drink immediately
At Aiya, we prefer to use Crystal Geyser water when preparing our teas, because they are a readily available bottled soft water. Using tap water in Southern California is not recommended for tea because it is on the harder side of the water spectrum. Tap water can vary greatly in terms of the type and quality, so we would recommend using bottled water. Below is a list of bottled soft water around the world, courtesy of Kasora.com:
- Volvic (France)
- S.Bernardo (Italy)
- Spa (Belgium)
- Luso (Portugal)
- Norwater (Norway)
- Viking Springwater (Norway)
- Alaskan Glacier Gold Water (United States)
- Crystal Geyser (United States)
- Rocky Mountain (United States)
- Aquator (Canada)
- Bourassa Canadian (Canada)
- Valvert (Belgium)
- Highland Spring (United Kingdom)
- Fiji (Fiji)
It is important to remember that when steeping and preparing tea, water temperature is just as vital as the quality of the water used. Though tea preferences differ from person to person and some may prefer the taste of using hard water, we recommend using soft water to allow enjoyment of the true quality and flavor of the tea.