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  • Writer's pictureNancy, Hostess of Cup & Crown

Is Your Water Worthy of Your Tea?

"Even if you purchase the highest quality tea, it can only reach its full taste potential if it's brewed with quality water."

Grocery store shelves are filled with an abundance of bottled water brands: Aquafina®, Deer Park®, Evian®... I, myself, am a tap water drinker, despite having filtered H2O from my fridge as well as a filtration pitcher. Tap is fast, easy, and never too cold or too hot for my preferences. Of course, I consider myself lucky to live in a place where the tap water tastes good enough to drink. As a Navy wife who has lived in different places around the U.S., I have tried the tap water in other towns where the flavour is less than desirable, smelling or tasting of chlorine or other chemicals. I have said many times and attest once more: were it not for the good tap water where I live now, I may not be a tea drinker.

Did I just say that? Perish the thought!

But even with what I consider to be good tap water, is it truly good enough for my tea?

Cup & Crown followers know that I have a live tea tasting each month with my good friend, "the other tea lady," Lady Amy Mitchell of Houses of Windsor in Orlando, Florida. [Watch our next tasting on May 18 at 3:00 p.m. as well as previously-recorded episodes on] In our most recent tasting, we executed an experiment I've long wanted to try. Instead of sampling 3 different tea flavours, we used 1 tea - Twinings® English Breakfast - but 3 different waters: tap, Dasani®, and Smart Water®. As I only half-expected to find the results to vary, I was excited to experience first-hand the influence different waters have on tea.

When looking at the brewed teas, the tea prepared with tap water appeared darker and produced a more astringent quality in comparison with the others... not something I would have noticed were I not comparing this cup to 2 others. Tea prepared with Smart Water was also dark; and though the first sip began with a good taste, it suddenly ceased before swallowing, flattening the tea's quality. The tea prepared with Dasani, however, not only produced a brighter tea colour, the water brought out the best quality of the leaves, promoting a delicious taste from sip to swallow. Hands down, Dasani was the clear "winner" of our tasting.

Intrigued by our sampling results, I did a little research and came across an informative article by Tea Leaf Journal, entitled "Water Quality: Water - the Mother of Tea", that reinforces what the Chinese have known for centuries: the necessity of great-tasting tea begins with excellent water. And excellent water is determined by pH level, chemical and mineral content/water hardness, and freshness and oxygen - all which will have varying levels based on its region and purification process and will impact the colour, clarity, and flavour of the leaves, even when steeped properly. The article states that "Even if you purchase the highest quality tea, it can only reach its full taste potential if it's brewed with quality water. The ideal situation is when the water and the tea match each other." Readers may delve into the full article by Tea Leaf Journal here to learn more.

In his blog, The Whole Leaf, expert tea maker, VP of Smith Teamaker, and author at Fresh Cup Magazine, Ravi Kroesen educates us in his article "A Closer Look at Water for Tea": "Although the US drinking water system is largely safe, not all tap water is ideal for tea-making."

Precisely what Amy and I found in our tasting last month! Furthermore, Kroesen writes:

"Good-quality water can elevate bad tea into something palatable, whereas poor-quality water can make good tea undrinkable."

He continues, "Many teashops boasting custom water systems hear from customers how much better the tea tastes when prepared at the shop, as opposed to when customers brew the same tea at home. Sometimes this can be attributed to incorrectly followed brewing instructions regarding tea-to-water ratios, water temperature or steeping time. However, the most common reason for inferior tea at home is a result of the water quality." Kroesen's article also offers a regional map of the US to determine the water hardness throughout the United States and suggestions on how to test or even improve the water you use for brewing your daily cuppa. Click here to read the full article.

There are only 2 ingredients in a pot of tea: water and tea leaves. As a tea enthusiast and tea party hostess, I have long recommended high quality, loose-leaf tea to my friends and customers. And now having sampled how those leaves blossom in a clean and balanced water, I go forward not only using filtered H2O for my own tea, but now insisting the water is just as important as the tea itself. Whether you have one cup or a whole pot of tea each day, be just as selective of your water and make it a GREAT one!

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