It’s not something many people think about and sometimes it might not even cross your mind at all but water can affect a cup of tea in a variety of ways which can alter your tea experience. The most common thing when people that drink tea will be concerned with is water temperature as different teas have different optimal water temperatures when steeping. Another thing to consider is the quality of your water and whether your water is hard water or soft water. The amount of minerals in your water can provide different results when preparing tea.
When it comes to temperature generally the more delicate teas like white tea, green tea, and even oolong tea tend to use water that is cooler than boiling. Whereas other teas like black tea, rooibos, and herbal teas use boiling water. The reason for this is if you use water that is too hot with the more delicate teas, it may bring out more tannins and increase the bitter astringent flavor in tea. Each tea has its ideal temperature of water which should be followed in order to ensure a more enjoyable cup of tea.
One aspect people probably pay less attention to is the quality of water they are using when steeping their tea. Typically speaking soft water or softer water is ideal when steeping tea because less minerals are found in the water which may add for flavonoids to the final cup. Soft water can help bring out the true flavors of the tea, whether they be good or bad and show the true quality of the tea. Those that have used hard water might be familiar with the lime scale fill that can develop at the bottom of a water kettle due to boiling hard water. Using hard water may in turn case steeped tea to have a more cloudy liquor.
We at Aiya are more experts on Matcha and Japanese green tea so we will touch base more on what kind of water should be used with these types of tea. When preparing a high quality premium Japanese green teas like Matcha, Gyokuro, or a high quality Sencha you want to make sure to use water that tends to be lower in temperature, but with a longer steep time. This is to ensure you don’t release the tannins in the tea which bring about more bitterness. This also allows one to taste the natural sweetness in the Matcha and Gyokuro due to the L-Theanine. This too is where soft water will allow one to taste the actual flavor of the tea rather than any minerals or other flavonoids from the water. When preparing what they might call lower quality Japanese green teas like Genmaicha, Kukicha, Hojicha, Konacha, etc. you can use water that tends to be a little bit higher in temperature, but the trade off is with a shorter steeping time. Over-steeping can cause tea to become bitter in taste. Below are the recommended water temperatures and steep times for the various Japanese green tea:
- 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
Here at Aiya we prefer to use Crystal Geyser water when preparing tea because it is a readily available bottled soft water and tap water in Southern California is more on the hard side of the spectrum. Since water can vary in terms of how hard or soft it is depending on where you live we recommend using bottled water. The following 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)
Remember when steeping and preparing tea water temperature is very important just as much as the quality of water used. There are those that may prefer hard water, but generally using soft water will allow you to enjoy the true quality of the tea.