Water Water Everywhere... What’s Your Water?

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Victoria
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Fri Dec 14, 2018 4:16 pm

Water is an essential part of making good tea. Share what water you use for your teas; locally sourced Spring/Artesian water, tap water, filtered tap, bottled, high/low PH, high/low mineral count (total hardness, Ca, Mg, trace minerals), alkalinity, TDS (total dissolved solids) count...
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Victoria
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Fri Dec 14, 2018 5:22 pm

In Santa Monica, Brita filtered tap water is very good with my teas. I add a piece of bamboo charcoal in the filtered water pitcher, it smooths out the water just a little bit, and removes any remaining off smells. TDS count before Brita filter is 239, after Brita filtering 189 TDS. Some would consider this a very high amount of dissolved solids, but it works well for most of my teas. Not for certain DanCong though, like TeaHabitat’s Dao Hua Xiang, for which to my surprise RO water is recommended.

There are several conversations floating around about Total Dissolved Solid (TDS) count in water and how it affects tea. I think it really depends on which teas you enjoy, other aspects of your water (minerals, PH), and flavor profiles you prefer. When I’m in Annapolis the house has reverse osmosis (RO) water that ruins my teas (oolong, sencha, gyokuro,red), so I have resorted to buying bottled Spring/Artesian water which has adequate minerals. The RO water here has 67 TDS, in Santa Monica Beyond O2, 5 TDS, and both work well with certain DanCong.

My preferred bottled water so far has been; Trader Joe’s Pure New Zealand Artesian, 88 TDS; Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring (by CG Roxane from Blue Ridge Mtns. SC), 110 TDS; Kirkland seems kind of okay although it is re-mineralized RO (but so is my Santa Monica tap water), 22 TDS. Deer Park (Nestle) though tasted pretty bad, 80 TDS. I haven’t yet compared mineral content, PH, alkalinity, in these bottled waters. So far it’s just been empirical, by trial and error.

Update Edit; i decided this water is too hard on my oolong and sencha -Crystal Geyser, Alpine Spring (by CG Roxane from Blue Ridge Mtns. SC).
Last edited by Victoria on Thu Dec 20, 2018 9:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Updated tasting notes
gatmcm
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Fri Dec 14, 2018 5:56 pm

Interesting thread, I tried a bunch of the water available here, spring water in Portugal is very low tds for the most part, most mountains aren't limestone based, one I use is Serra da Estrela brand 39tds, 2.7mg/L calcium, not wildly different from the rest of the options but has been my favourite.

Used to source my own from a spring nearby and it was very good but a couple years ago it rained very little so the water got more mineralized I guess, made tea taste like hot water.
Have to try it again some day, probably back to normal.
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Baisao
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Sat Dec 15, 2018 2:17 am

Water is as important as the tea we use so I don’t skimp on water. RO or distilled waters make terrible tea, in my opinion.

In the past I have used Crystal Geyser from the Ouachita source but have found it to be too variable lately. It also has a relatively high TDS (around 150) and quickly forms scale in my kettle.

I also used Fiji years ago and though I liked the flavor, the high TDS (around 250) made tea that was heavy on the palate and lacked elan. While it is a delicious water, it pushed the tea around. Political and environmental issues also concerned me with this water.

I’ve settled on VOSS and its doppelgänger, Nice! Iceland Spring Water, found at Walgreens. Both have a TDS around 40 and taste almost identical. The pH of the Iceland Spring water is reportedly slightly higher than VOSS but I haven’t noticed a difference in practice.

Nice! is the house brand for Walgreens and is somewhat less expensive than VOSS. The results from these waters are teas that have elan, have good flavor from the mineral composition of the water without the water asserting itself before the tea.

As an aside, find a particularly astringent tea and prepare it with Aqua Panna spring water. I will only say that the result is genuinely startling. It’s all the more startling when you compare the composition of Aqua Panna to Crystal Geyser (Ouachita) or to other common spring waters with similar TDS, where the mineral assessments are so close that the resulting difference in flavor makes little sense.
.m.
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Sat Dec 15, 2018 4:09 am

gatmcm wrote:
Fri Dec 14, 2018 5:56 pm
Interesting thread, I tried a bunch of the water available here, spring water in Portugal is very low tds for the most part, most mountains aren't limestone based, one I use is Serra da Estrela brand 39tds, 2.7mg/L calcium, not wildly different from the rest of the options but has been my favourite.
I've been 4 months in Porto and i haven't found a bottled water that i'd be happy with. As you say, they are mostly very low TDS and very low PH, between 5-6. And tap water has too much chlorine. I've been still enjoying good cups of tea, but none that would really shine. :( A ceramic kettle with thick scale of limestone have been helping with the taste a bit.
Victoria wrote:
Fri Dec 14, 2018 5:22 pm
In Santa Monica, Brita filtered tap water is very good with my teas. I add a piece of bamboo charcoal in the filtered water pitcher, it smooths out the water just a little bit, and removes any remaining off smells. TDS count before Brita filter is 239, after Brita filtering 189 TDS. Some would consider this a very high amount of dissolved solids, but it works well for most of my teas. Not for certain DanCong though, like TeaHabitat’s Dao Hua Xiang, for which to my surprise RO water is recommended.
I'm glad not to be the only one having good experience with higher TDS water. :) In the past I've made some of the most best cups with a water high in TDS (with a lot of scale). Obviously it's not simply the TDS but rather the mineral composition that matters, but it still goes against some popular ideas. On the other hand, some hard waters are just terrible.

My speculation is that relatively high calcium bicarbonate Ca(HCO3)2 is actually a good thing, it will precipitates into scale through boiling anyways, but that it is some other forms of soluble Calcium (such as CaCl2, CaSO4,...) that make hard water dulling the taste.
My other speculation is that low PH water is not very good for tea.
gatmcm
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Sat Dec 15, 2018 5:07 am

.m. wrote:
Sat Dec 15, 2018 4:09 am

My speculation is that relatively high calcium bicarbonate Ca(HCO3)2 is actually a good thing, it will precipitates into scale through boiling anyways, but that it is some other forms of soluble Calcium (such as CaCl2, CaSO4,...) that make hard water dulling the taste.
My other speculation is that low PH water is not very good for tea.
Have noticed an interesting effect with bicarb as well, seems to give body to the tea and sort of shave the high notes, monchique brand water has ~300 tds 9pH, most of it being bicarb and it showcases that effect very well, that said it's somewhat overwhelming since its so high so I'd say it isn't a good water for tea, fun experiment nonetheless. Not sure if it's available at a reasonable price in Porto though, I'm quite close to the source so it's everywhere, not as common in the north iirc.
As for pH I don't have a clue how it relates because I haven't had the opportunity to try higher ph water that isnt tap, the nature of the water here is just like that, very acidic and low mineral content.
.m.
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Sat Dec 15, 2018 6:07 am

gatmcm wrote:
Sat Dec 15, 2018 5:07 am
Have noticed an interesting effect with bicarb as well, seems to give body to the tea and sort of shave the high notes, monchique brand water has ~300 tds 9pH, most of it being bicarb and it showcases that effect very well, that said it's somewhat overwhelming since its so high so I'd say it isn't a good water for tea, fun experiment nonetheless. Not sure if it's available at a reasonable price in Porto though, I'm quite close to the source so it's everywhere, not as common in the north iirc.
As for pH I don't have a clue how it relates because I haven't had the opportunity to try higher ph water that isnt tap, the nature of the water here is just like that, very acidic and low mineral content.
I'm moving out of Portugal soon (it's been a short but very nice stay here :) ), not sure if i'll have time to look for this water and to try mixing it with other waters before i'll leave. Clearly a personal preference plays an important role, as well as the tea one is brewing. To put what i've said in a perspective, my ideal is towards increased body without flatting up the taste. High content of calcium bicarbonate is often accompanied with increased amount of other calcium component, which makes it hard to test my speculations. High pH might also turn out to be problematic. It's definitely a fascinating topic that should be discussed more. :)
Janice
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Sat Dec 15, 2018 12:13 pm

Victoria wrote:
Fri Dec 14, 2018 5:22 pm
In Santa Monica, Brita filtered tap water is very good with my teas. I add a piece of bamboo charcoal in the filtered water pitcher, it smooths out the water just a little bit, and removes any remaining off smells. TDS count before Brita filter is 239, after Brita filtering 189 TDS. Some would consider this a very high amount of dissolved solids, but it works well for most of my teas. Not for certain DanCong though, like TeaHabitat’s Dao Hua Xiang, for which to my surprise RO water is recommended.
Brita filtered tap water works well for my teas but I’m intrigued by the idea of adding bamboo charcoal. Do you place it in the bottom of the pitcher so the charcoal sits in the filtered water for a while?
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Victoria
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Sat Dec 15, 2018 12:17 pm

Janice wrote:
Sat Dec 15, 2018 12:13 pm
Victoria wrote:
Fri Dec 14, 2018 5:22 pm
In Santa Monica, Brita filtered tap water is very good with my teas. I add a piece of bamboo charcoal in the filtered water pitcher, it smooths out the water just a little bit, and removes any remaining off smells. TDS count before Brita filter is 239, after Brita filtering 189 TDS. Some would consider this a very high amount of dissolved solids, but it works well for most of my teas. Not for certain DanCong though, like TeaHabitat’s Dao Hua Xiang, for which to my surprise RO water is recommended.
Brita filtered tap water works well for my teas but I’m intrigued by the idea of adding bamboo charcoal. Do you place it in the bottom of the pitcher so the charcoal sits in the filtered water for a while?
Yes, I just place the charcoal at the bottom of Brita pitcher to sit with the already filtered water. At first, I also tried placing a piece in my water kettle as well, but found it flattened the water too much.
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Victoria
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Sat Dec 15, 2018 12:29 pm

Baisao wrote:
Sat Dec 15, 2018 2:17 am
.....
I’ve settled on VOSS and its doppelgänger, Nice! Iceland Spring Water, found at Walgreens. Both have a TDS around 40 and taste almost identical. The pH of the Iceland Spring water is reportedly slightly higher than VOSS but I haven’t noticed a difference in practice.

Nice! is the house brand for Walgreens and is somewhat less expensive than VOSS. The results from these waters are teas that have elan, have good flavor from the mineral composition of the water without the water asserting itself before the tea.

As an aside, find a particularly astringent tea and prepare it with Aqua Panna spring water. I will only say that the result is genuinely startling. It’s all the more startling when you compare the composition of Aqua Panna to Crystal Geyser (Ouachita) or to other common spring waters with similar TDS, where the mineral assessments are so close that the resulting difference in flavor makes little sense.
To compare, I’m going to try VOSS, Nice! Iceland Spring Water, and Aqua Panna spring water as well. Out of curiosity to experiment, I also got Refreshe (distilled water w/electrolytes added; Calcium Chloride, Potassium Bicarbonate and Magnesium Chloride). When I got to Annapolis this week Trader Joe’s didn’t have any New Zealand Artesian, so I revisited my bottled water notes and luckily found Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring (Blue Ridge Mtns., SC) is pretty good too. I really dislike the idea of purchasing plastic bottled water, but I dislike bad tea more :) .
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There is no self
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Sat Dec 15, 2018 1:00 pm

At my place I filter tap water with a Brita. Our acqueduct water is arguably one of the best in the country, but the building I live in is quite old, and water straight out of the tap is too heavy.
Sometimes I also use water from the many drinking fountains in the city. Exceptional with pu'erhs, not so much with green wulongs.

When I'm at my parents' I go for bottled water. Tap water has too much chlorine in it. I might try to convince them to switch to Acqua Panna, since you're having good results with it.
.m.
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Sat Dec 15, 2018 1:51 pm

Does anybody have an experience with maifan stones?
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VoirenTea
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Sat Dec 15, 2018 6:49 pm

I use tap water (London, SE). What this topic made me look up and I did not realise, is that Thames Water give postcoded water quality reports that you can download.

Calcium carbonate(CaCO3): 249 ppm

Other hardness measurements
Degrees Clarke:17
Degrees German(DH):14
Degrees French:25

You also get a pdf with all sorts of things listed in it.

Hydrogen Ion: mean 7.6 pH_unit
Alkalinity as CaCO3: mean 182.25 mg/l
Magnesium: mean 4.85 mg/l

I like the tea I make with it. I haven't compared with anything bottled.
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OCTO
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Sun Dec 16, 2018 6:57 am

I use double filtered Energic Kangen Water at PH7.0. Filter elements changed every 6 months.

Agree with @Baisao. RO, distilled and alkaline water is terrible for brewing tea. Not really a big fan of bottled water.

Cheers!!
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Bok
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Sun Dec 16, 2018 7:20 am

OCTO wrote:
Sun Dec 16, 2018 6:57 am
Not really a big fan of bottled water.
Second that. The ecologic impact does not really justify buying bottled or even worse, imported water. I’d rather spend money on a good filter or other sustainable measures to improve the water.

Taipei water, filtered with an extra tap outlet works very well for all my teas.
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