Blue water splashing around

The Essential Element: Five things to help you choose the right water for your tea

Michele Lillie

When brewing the perfect cup of tea, the focus often lands on the tea leaves themselves – their origin, age, or variety. However, an equally crucial, yet sometimes overlooked, component is the water used in the brewing process. The water's quality, taste, and purity can significantly influence the final cup's aroma, flavor, and overall enjoyment. Here, we dive into the world of water for tea brewing, offering guidance to enhance your tea experience.

1. The Difference Water Makes

The water used in brewing tea acts as the canvas on which the tea’s flavors are painted. The right water can enhance and elevate the tea, making each sip a more vivid and enriching experience. Water quality affects not only the taste but also the aroma and color of the tea, influencing its overall character and how it interacts with your palate. By choosing the right type of water, you can ensure that every cup of tea truly reflects its origin, craftsmanship, and the passion behind its creation.

2. The Ideal Water for Brewing Tea

There is no one perfect water for brewing tea. Although there are certain items to consider, personal preference also comes into play. If you like how your tea tastes with the water you use, great. There is no reason to look further. If, on the other hand, you wouldn’t drink the water by itself because of the taste, it is very likely the taste of your tea will suffer.

You may have also noticed that your tea tastes different when you brew it at home compared to work or even when you frequent English Tealeaves. If the tea and the brewing technique are consistent, it is probably the water causing the variation in flavor.

3. Water components

The taste of your water and, ultimately, the tea are affected by the following components of water.

pH - Acidic or Alkaline water for tea?

If you recall your high school chemistry class, pure water is considered neutral, which means it has a pH of 7. Items such as lemon juice are acidic, with a pH of 2 to 3, while household bleach is alkaline, measuring a pH between 11 and 13.

According to the EPA, tap water should have a pH between 6.5 and 8.5. Well water will vary depending on the well location. The more minerals in the water, the higher the pH.

Recommendations are that the water you use to brew tea should have a pH as close to 7 as possible. More alkaline (higher pH) water might make your tea taste dull or mute the delicate flavors of the tea leaves.

Colored image of the pH scale going from 0 to 14 and from red to green to blue

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) & Hardness

TDS equates to the total quantity of minerals dissolved in the water. The amount of calcium and magnesium in a particular water is what determines whether it is considered soft or hard.

Many experts say soft water is generally better for brewing tea as it is lower in those minerals. It allows the nuanced flavor notes we love in tea to come through. A high mineral content can negatively affect the tea's flavor. It might taste dull, metallic or harsh. Hard water can also lead to what is termed “Tea Scum.” This is manifested by white particles floating on the cup of tea. One expert compares tea scum to the ring in a bathtub you might see if you have hard water.

On the other hand, water with too few minerals does not make a good cup of tea. This is why you should not use distilled water or water with all the minerals filtered out. Tea needs some minerals to have the best flavor. Without those minerals, teas tend to be one-note and bland, without the complexity that makes tea exciting. It might also be bitter and too astringent despite using proper brewing technique. Ideally, you do not want water with less than 20-40 ppm. Distilled water also has an acidic pH, anywhere between 5.5 and 6, and boiling further decreases the pH, another reason to steer clear of distilled water in your tea making.

4. Type of Tea 

To make this discussion a little more complex, not only does the water matter, but also the type of tea. Studies have been done to determine what type of water is best for different types of tea. Cornell University tested both black and green tea, brewing them consistently, with the only difference being the type of water – bottled, tap, or deionized water. The tap water used in this study had a relatively high mineral content.

They analyzed the brewed tea in terms of color, turbidity, and flavor, and they also measured the content of one of the healthy antioxidants in tea, specifically epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). They found that for flavor, tap water was preferred for brewing green tea, but for higher amounts of EGCG, either bottled or deionized water was best. This can be explained by the fact that although EGCG is a healthy tea compound, it can give a bitter flavor to tea. For black tea, differences were minimal. They concluded:

Four white oval shaped bowls with each containing a different type of tea

“For the everyday tea drinker who drinks green tea for health, the capability to double the EGCG content in tea by simply brewing with bottled or deionized water represents a clear advantage. Conversely, those drinking tea for flavor may benefit from brewing tea with tap water instead.”

5. Water Recommendations

Tap Water

If you like your tap water, using it for your tea is fine. However, if you want to delve deeper, have your water tested to see how close it is to the recommendations shown below.

Do not use water from your hot tap. Contaminants, including lead, metal from pipe corrosion, and bacteria, are much more likely to dissolve in warmer water. Therefore, the water might not taste good and could be unsafe to drink. Always use your cold tap, allowing it to run for a few seconds to obtain the freshest water possible.

Whatever water you use, try not to reboil it. Doing so decreases the amount of dissolved oxygen, leading to flat-tasting tea. Heating water also alters the pH, which can not only affect the taste of the tea but also lower the amount of healthy tea antioxidants.

Spring Water

If available, fresh spring water is often considered the gold standard for tea brewing. Its natural filtration process ensures a balanced mineral content, providing a neutral canvas that fully expresses the tea's flavor profile. Spring water can elevate the tea experience, adding a dimension of freshness that is hard to replicate with tap water.

Filtered Water

Filtered water can be an excellent alternative. A good quality water filter can remove unwanted tastes, odors, and excess minerals from tap water. This ensures that nothing interferes with the true taste of the tea, allowing for a more authentic and enjoyable brew. Just be aware that devices that filter out all the minerals will leave you with water no better than distilled water.

Copper and clear tea kettle with water boiling inside

In Conclusion

In the journey of tea discovery, the choice of water is as pivotal as the selection of tea leaves. By paying attention to the water you use, you can transform your tea experience, turning each cup into a celebration of flavor and tradition. Whether you’re a seasoned tea enthusiast or new to the world of tea, experimenting with different types of water can be a simple yet impactful way to deepen your appreciation and understanding of this timeless beverage. Remember, the best tea experience is one that is not just tasted but felt – where every element, including the water, comes together in perfect harmony.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.