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TIP OF THE DAY: Best Water For Tea

The source of the water changes the flavor of the tea. Photo by A.G. Photographer | CSP.


This tip is for people who love fine tea and drink it straight—no milk, no sweetener, no lemon.

It comes from Sebastian Beckwith, owner of In Pursuit Of Tea in the TriBeCa neighborhood of New York City. Just as water imparts flavor nuances to everything—from pizza crusts and bagels to Scotch—it makes a difference when brewing a cup of tea.

“Recently I’ve been experimenting with water for brewing my tea,” writes Sebastian. “It’s fascinating how different the same tea can taste when brewed with different waters. Each water draws distinct characteristics out of the leaves, and one type of water is not necessarily better than another.

For instance, many people warn against using distilled water, believing that the lack of minerals results in a flatter taste. I find, though, that some teas shine when prepared with it.

For today’s tip, I chose three types of water: a reverse-osmosis filtered water that we use here in the shop; a soft, slightly acidic spring water; and a distilled water. We tasted them with a sencha (green) tea and an oolong tea, using the same parameters for each water.”


Sencha Water Test

  • Process: 3g sencha green tea was steeped with 100cc water at 170°F for 75 seconds.
  • Results: For this classic Japanese green tea, the reverse-osmosis water brewed a distinct texture, with more pronounced tannins but still well balanced. The spring and distilled waters both had a rounder taste, with the spring water producing a slightly sweeter flavor. As the tea cooled, it was interesting to note that the spring water held up the best, maintaining a delicate, soft sweetness.
    Oolong Water Test
  • Process: 1.7g Phoenix Honey oolong tea was steeped in 100cc water at 205°F for 75 seconds.
  • Results: The differences in waters used to brew this Chinese oolong were even more marked: The spring water yielded a more rosy colored cup, with a woody, sweet, full flavor and lingering fragrance. The reverse osmosis has a nice ephermal sweetness up front, but the taste of the distilled was flat, with much of the fragrance dampened.
    Water is crucial to making a good cup of tea, so play around with different types (tap, filtered, bottled) and see what you like best.

    More About Water & Tea

  • How To Brew The Perfect Cup Of Tea
  • Tea Glossary: The Different Types Of Tea
  • Water Glossary: Types Of Water

    Related Food Videos: For more food videos, check out The Nibble's Food Video Collection.

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