When Water Meets Tea

The best possible water to use for infusing tea is well water. But here are the alternatives for us city folk:

Tips for a pure brew:

* Tea leaves love spring water, so use it if you have it available. This is my first choice because it is the next best thing to well water.

* Use purified or filtered water. Don’t use water directly from your tap unless you live in an area where tap water is drinkable. Your tap water may be absolutely fine for other things like boiling pasta or steaming veggies, but could have contaminants that will make your tea taste funny. The easiest solution for most people is a Brita pitcher with a built-in filter. They are widely available.

* Run tap water for 30 seconds before putting into your kettle (assuming your filter is attached to your faucet). This oxygenates water that has been sitting in your pipes.

* Distilled water does not make good tea. It does not have its minerals and can make a flat-tasting pot of tea.

Use the best water you can in your teapot and you are halfway to a divine infusion.

Temperature, Quantity, Timing

Just as important as water quality is water temperature, amount of tea, and timing your steep.

I recommend beginning with the rule of thumb for your type of tea and start experimenting from there.

When I began, I had no idea idea how to brew and I over steeped green tea many times. (I pour undrinkable tea into my potted geraniums. They love it and it doesn’t go to waste.)

Your green or white tea will get bitter fast when it meets too-hot water. This is one of my pet peeves in establishments using scalding water for their tea service. Use a candy or meat thermometer to measure the temperature (at least in the beginning).

Green/white tea

* 160 – 175 F (70 – 80 C)

* Steep for 1-3 minutes

Oolong tea

* 180 – 190 F (82 – 88 C)

* Steep for 3-5 minutes

Black tea

* 212F (but don’t let it boil too long) (100 C)

* Steep for 3-5 minutes

The quantity of tea you put in your teapot will make a difference. In general, I put approximately 1 teaspoon and a slight bit more per cup of water in a Yixing Teapot or my grandmother’s tiny Brown Betty. (Both are clay pots, one unglazed and one glazed.)

More tea equals a stronger brew. A stronger brew may be desirable when cooking with tea, making iced tea, or it may just be your preference. Longer steeping equals bitter green or white tea. Black tea can handle longer steeping. It’s up to you!

copyright 2006 Terry Calamito

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