As 99% of a cup of tea is made up of water, the quality of water used to brew tea is very important.
According to traditional Chinese tea masters, pure mountain spring water is considered to be “the friend of tea.” The importance of water quality to the taste of tea was recognized and well documented by Lu Yu, the tea sage, during the Tang Dynasty. He declared that mountain spring water is best, river water is next best and well water is the poorest. As no water filters were available to the Chinese of Lu Yu’s time, it is not surprising that many tea connoisseurs paid extravagant sums for regular supplies of their favorite waters to be transported over long distances, rather than risk damaging the flavor of their precious teas.
So, without traveling to remote mountain springs or spending a small fortune, how can the modern tea consumer obtain the ideal water for tea?
The major considerations for ideal water are mineral content, chlorine and pH levels. Hard water, with a high concentration of calcium or magnesium, dulls both flavor and aroma. This is especially evident with delicate green and oolong teas; Soft water is considered better for brewing tea as it contains a lower mineral concentration.
As the quality of tap water varies from place to place, it is best to consult your local water company for data on water quality in your local area. A simple water filter can vastly improve the taste of tea by eliminating excessive chlorine and reducing mineral content.
Another recommendation, especially for fine teas, is to use bottled spring water. However, not all bottled waters are created equal when it comes to enhancing the flavors of tea. Check the labels of bottled water to find one that is pH neutral and contains few minerals. By improving the quality of your water, your special teas will surely sparkle.