As far back as the Qing Dynasty, the famous Chinese tea master Zhang Dafu established that the quality of a good cup of tea depends on 20 percent of the tea itself and 80 percent on the water used. In this article, you will learn what it is about, what you should pay attention to, and how water actually affects the taste of tea.
In theory, this is very simple. You boil water, pour tea with it, wait a bit and a delicious hot drink is ready. In practice, everything is not so simple.
And if you cannot change the quality of the tea leaves, but you can have a big impact on the water you use to make tea, starting with the way it is boiled, the temperature and hardness of the water, it is possible. Should the water be boiled and then allowed to cool, or should it just be heated to the right temperature? And only one of these options is correct.
HOW DOES WATER CHANGES WHEN BOILING?
From a purely scientific point of view, heat causes water molecules to move. At the boiling point, at 100°C, they pass into the gaseous state. Water evaporates and condenses on cooler surfaces in the kitchen or on glasses, for example. If the water in the pot cools down again, the molecules will stop and there will be less liquid in the pot. But water remains water and does not change as a result of this process.
But water is not just H2O. Minerals and salts such as calcium or magnesium are dissolved in water. When boiling, part of the liquid evaporates, which changes the proportion of dissolved substances in the remaining liquid. It can increase or decrease, which slightly changes the hardness of the water. In the kettle, this process can be recognized, for example, by the deposits that form over time (scale, “lime”).
This is of particular importance for the preparation of tea and the taste of the brewed tea, as the way it is brewed can also affect the taste of the finished tea, especially in the case of fine green teas that benefit from flavor if the water is soft.
How to boil tea water
Different types of tea require different water temperatures. There are two ways to achieve the desired water temperature, but we can only recommend one:
1. You boil the water completely once and then let it cool down to the desired temperature, or
2. You turn off the stove or kettle as soon as the water reaches the right temperature — some kettles have a feature that does this automatically.
But which method is correct?
After the water boils properly and only then cools to the right temperature, the proportion of minerals that will leach from the water and form a scale will be higher. You can really notice this difference and the tea tastes better.
Another benefit: boiling kills germs that may be present in the water or kettle. For us, this is the only correct way to make tea.
Cold brew for a special occasion
The cold brew method is another method of making tea where the temperature of the water has a huge impact on the taste. When preparing cold brew, tea leaves are soaked in cold water for several hours. Green teas are the best for this. Cold water releases less bitter substances from tea leaves, and thus completely new subtleties and taste nuances can be detected in the finished tea.
THE RIGHT WATER FOR THE BEST TEA
In his famous Book of Tea, Zhang Dafu argued that fresh mountain water is best for making delicious tea, followed by river water. Well water was the worst alternative for him.