Have you ever thought about what your tea consists of? Obviously, there are tea leaves but they constitute only 1% of your cuppa, the rest 99% is water! So definitely water, as a major ingredient, influences the aroma and taste of tea. One of the most important factors that go into making the perfect cup of tea is the quality of your tea leaves. Apart from that, the temperature of the brew and the water used should also be considered. Here are the reasons why the water used and the temperature at which your tea is brewed can affect the taste of tea:
1. Water Quality Affects the Taste of Tea
Most of you know that soft water is more suitable than hard water, but what is the reason behind it? Hard water contains minerals like calcium and magnesium which impart a bitter flavour and reduce the natural taste of tea. A high mineral content will give off a faint colour and flat flavour to the tea. Not many know that the minerals present in water can react with antioxidants to reduce the nutritional value of the tea. On the other hand, soft water contains a lower level of trace minerals which has little effect on the taste of tea. Hence, soft water is better for brewing your tea.
The quality of water depends on various factors such as mineral content, hardness, pH level, etc. As discussed above, high mineral content has a detrimental effect on the taste of tea. Always watch out for visible cues such as the formation of scum, cloudiness etc. They are indicative of undesirable mineral reactions and poor quality of water. Though pH is not a major factor, a neutral pH i.e. 7 is considered suitable. A high pH (greater than 7) will lead to dark tea infusion and reduce the activity of catechins. Similarly, a low pH (lower than 7) will favour lighter infusions.
Also, make sure that you only use fresh water for tea preparation. This is because a high amount of oxygen in water (H2O) contributes to a fully flavoured tea with a dash of freshness. Therefore, never let water stand in the kettle/saucepan for long as it diminishes the taste of tea.
2. Water Temperature Influences the Taste of Tea
The optimum water temperature for tea still appears to be a controversial topic. While a gentle boil won’t allow tea leaves to release flavour, a robust boil can cause the tea to develop a dull taste. It is best to boil just enough to bring enough oxygen to the water. Follow these handy tips that can be used to make the most out of your daily cup of tea.
White Tea: As one of the most delicate teas, white tea has very low caffeine content and the highest levels of antioxidants. Poor preparation technique can ruin the subtle flavour of white tea. As a thumb rule, avoid the use of water above boiling temperature which may scald the tea. Hence, white tea must be brewed carefully at around 160ºF.
Green Tea: The best temperature for brewing green tea depends on the variety used. Low-quality green teas should be brewed at a higher temperature (170ºF to 195ºF) while high-quality green tea tastes best with cooler water (158ºF to 176ºF). The right temperature of water is important to enjoy the divine flavour and health benefits of green tea!
Oolong Tea: The semi-fermented oolong tea is known for its earthy taste and robust aroma. Ideally, the more oxidised the oolong tea is, the higher the water temperature should be. Hence, the proper water temperature for brewing oolong tea lies between 190ºF to 200ºF.
Black Tea: Black tea is one of the most preferred beverages consumed by two-third of the world’s population. It is completely oxidised to bring out a strong, full-bodied flavour and therapeutic properties. Most people agree that black tea should be brewed with water between 190ºF and 200ºF.
Herbal Tea: Herbal tea (or tisane) is prepared from the different parts of plants and shrubs except for Camellia Sinensis i.e. true tea. Tisanes are naturally caffeine-free and can be enjoyed hot or cold. They have a delicate flavour ranging from citrusy, floral, minty, or grassy depending upon the herbal infusions used. Generally, water at a full boil (212ºF) works well for brewing herbal tea.
The knowledge of the effect of water on the tea taste can help you achieve quality tea each time. There is a famous Chinese saying, “Water is the mother of tea”. Now you finally learned how! You must keep in mind that the fine quality of tea and water makes for a palatable combination. However, if tea leaves are not up to par, water alone cannot save your tea! On the other hand, authentic teas would not taste satisfactory with every type of drinking water. Tea can only reach its maximum taste potential when matched with quality water. So, shopping for the highest quality tea alone cannot assure you a good cup of tea. To enjoy the highest taste potential of tea, use good quality water as well.
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