WATER & TEA
Characterises appearance and flavour.
THE SECRET TO TEA IS IN THE WATER
Tea is a very private matter for many people. A drink for a quiet moment away from the world, where you can enjoy a little calm as you collect your thoughts. A break from the rush of daily life. If the world outside is cold, dark and stormy, we all enjoy warming up with a cup of tea. It does something for us. That's because the theanine in tea, especially green tea, is able to reduce mental and physical stress.
Tea is a drink with a rich history spanning millennia, a drink which whisks us away to faraway cultures. China, Sri Lanka, India, Japan, Korea, Africa. Tea is culture. Tea gives daily life a touch of distinction, of dignity. What's more, tea is complex. Admittedly, this complexity is lost on many people: anyone can turn on the kettle, put a tea bag into a cup or pot and then pour hot water over it. Yet that's not quite true.
WHAT IS IMPORTANT WHEN PREPARING TEA?
When combining tea leaves and tea water, the devil is in the details. The quality of the tea leaves and how they have been processed make a huge difference. The choice of water is just as important, however, given that tea is at least 98% water. If no attention is given to the quality of the water, then the aromas of a good tea can never be experienced properly.
It's important to properly understand the water's hardness and the brewing duration (how long the tea remains in the water), and it's especially important to ensure the right mineral balance and temperature. Not all kinds of tea can stand up to infusion in bubbling, simmering water; in fact, only strong black teas should be brewed in boiling water.
LET THE WATER COOL SLIGHTLY BEFORE BREWING
When using white teas, green teas and more delicate black teas such as Darjeeling, the water should be left to cool slightly after boiling. These teas can tolerate temperatures between 65 and 90°C. Water in this temperature range better preserves the substance and flavour of the tea. Anyone who thinks that tea leaves can only release their contents in boiling water is sorely mistaken. The water cannot be too cold, however, as the chemical processes will then take longer, which can affect the taste.
The temperature of the water just after boiling is around 95°C and is therefore ideal for black tea. A minute after boiling, it is around 80°C and better suited for green and white teas. This is still the case after 3 to 4 minutes at around 70°C. Certain Japanese green tea varieties should only be brewed 8 to 9 minutes after boiling at around 60°C.
WATER HAS THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON TEA
Tea leaves can only be enjoyed as tea by adding water. "The quality of a good cup of tea depends 20% on the tea itself, and 80% on the water used", a great Chinese tea master is believed to have said. The minerals dissolved in the water have an effect upon the drink's taste, and can change how you enjoy the tea. Once again this comes down to striking a delicate balance. If the water is too chalky and therefore hard, that can negatively affect your enjoyment of the tea.
The perfect water for tea is fresh, rich in oxygen, slightly mineralised and isn't too hard. When considering the mineral content, lower levels of calcium and sodium levels are preferred, while there can be slightly more magnesium, as this works as a flavour carrier. Most teas work best with soft water which isn't too chalky. Assam and ceylon teas tolerate slightly harder water. Mineral content can also be a little higher for herbal teas. The ideal water hardness for an infusion drink such as tea is between 7 and 8 German degrees. It should be noted that this is not the hardness of all tap water in Germany. Often tap water is too hard and shouldn't be used to brew tea without preparation and filtration. Only perfectly mineralised water suited to the type of tea will let the aromas of a high-quality tea develop to their fullest potential.