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

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Victoria
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Tue Jan 29, 2019 4:35 pm

teasecret wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 9:35 am
I'm working on some experiments that I'll put in a blog post in about a week. This stuff takes time!
In the meantime, what exactly is alkalinity and its relationship to the resulting tea?
Yes, these experiments do take a while to sort out. I’m still wrapping my head around some of these concepts and reactions. As far as I know the easiest way to alkalize water is to add baking soda. One way to find out how alkaline levels affect tea is to add 1/2-1 teaspoon of baking soda to a cup of water, then use that to make tea. Use cheap tea, it will not taste very good.

Likewise, too much magnesium makes tea over extracted and metallic in flavor. So if the water is too hard (high calcium/magnesium levels) tea won’t be at its best.

PH is interesting also. Not all teas do well with high pH. Yesterday, I steeped @Ethan Kurland’s Champion Black tea with Nice! Iceland Spring water and it did not come out great, because the pH levels are high at 8.89 turning an otherwise sweet delicious tea into a sour mess. So while sencha and DongDing and high mountain oolong do well with higher pH, it looks like black tea does not.
.m.
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Tue Jan 29, 2019 5:30 pm

Victoria wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 4:35 pm
teasecret wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 9:35 am
I'm working on some experiments that I'll put in a blog post in about a week. This stuff takes time!
In the meantime, what exactly is alkalinity and its relationship to the resulting tea?
As far as I know the easiest way to alkalize water is to add baking soda. One way to find out how alkaline levels affect tea is to add 1/2-1 teaspoon of baking soda to a cup of water, then use that to make tea. Use cheap tea, it will not taste very good.
I don't think this is a completely fair experiment. Adding a teaspoon of baking soda in a cup would raise the alkalinity in something like tens of grams per liter. Adding a teaspoon into something like 20 gallons would i think be a more reasonable test.

According to wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alkalinity,
alkalinity very roughly equals to the amount of hydrocarbonates + 2x the amount of carbonates in the water:
"In most natural waters, all anions except HCO3− and CO32− have low concentrations. Thus carbonate alkalinity, which is equal to m_HCO3 + 2m_CO3 is also approximately equal to the total alkalinity."
Things like Sodium Chloride or Calcium Chloride or Carbon Dioxide do not change alkalinity from what i understand (but change TDS, or pH).

In the past i've lived in a place with very "hard" tap water (creating a lot of scale) which nevertheless made a very good tea (in my opinion). I think that not all minerals that contribute to alkalinity, TDS, pH, hardness, etc have a comparable effect on the taste of the water.
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Shine Magical
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Tue Jan 29, 2019 6:18 pm

I use Poland Spring. I drink Taiwanese green oolongs and sheng. The tap water in NYC is good for drinking but is clearly lacking for tea when compared side-by-side with Poland spring water. I've tried to and failed to muster the effort to seriously analyze which water brands are the best. I've tried a few but they all seem mostly ok. Poland Spring always seems to be near the top of the list and is easily accessible for me.

I do remember that Essentia water made gaoshan very flat and tasteless. Don't recommend.
Last edited by Shine Magical on Wed Jan 30, 2019 8:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
Rickpatbrown
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Tue Jan 29, 2019 11:15 pm

teasecret wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 9:35 am
I'm working on some experiments that I'll put in a blog post in about a week. This stuff takes time!
In the meantime, what exactly is alkalinity and its relationship to the resulting tea?
pH is how we describe the ratio of protons and hydroxyl ions in water due to the self ionization of H20 into H+ and HO-
low pH means this equilibrium is shifted to H+ side and there are lots of H+ protons and the water is acidic. In acidic conditions, compounds in the water tend to be in their protonated form like -COOH versus their unprotonated form COO-. This has really big affects on what form minerals and tea compounds take and their solubilities and probably their properties such as taste and smell.

From how I understand it, alkalinity is related to the pH, but it refers to the actual amount of basic compounds in the water. If there are 6 grams per liter of bicarbonate, this is different that having only 3 grams of bicarbonate per liter, even though the pH might be the same. Alkalinity is important to water chemistry because it dictates how well the system buffers change. If there is a lot of bicarb, you will have to add a lot of acid to lower the pH. If there is a low alkalinity, then small additions of acid can cause a big change in pH.

I really don't know how these two affect tea, though. This is why I like what Victoria is doing. If we get lots of data on the types of waters that make tea taste good, then we might be able to figure out the important parameters.

It seems that a little bit higher pH is preferable. I feel like this helps give a thicker mouthful.
I would guess that you want a high enough alkalinity so that the pH is maintained throughout the addition of tea compounds to the water, but not too high that it effects extraction of key components.

Steeping tea is an incredibly complex process. There are so many different compounds in the leaf, some of them good and some of them detrimental to the flavor/aroma. It's a chemists nightmare to perform such separations with a single process. I can't fathom trying to claim a high pH extracts more x compounds while alkalinty does y.
theredbaron
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Thu Jan 31, 2019 11:53 am

Personally, i do find that going too scientific is the wrong approach. The best measurement in the end is simply one's tastebuds, and a simple comparison between waters side by side. While one may get results with all those measurements, breweing has still so many factors involved which are simply not measurable, such as one's particular mood that day, which can influence the tea, or just the taste experience. In this world of scientific facts (and purposeful denial of such), brewing tea is still one of the few areas where one can experience perception without doing any harm, and can train one's intuition. Which is an aspect that may get lost by too much science.
Which, of course is just my personal view on this.
swordofmytriumph
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Thu Jan 31, 2019 11:48 pm

Today I was doing a tasting for my grandma and was giving her some of my puerh. I was leaving my place and forgot to bring the water. I got out and realized that, and thought, “I’ll just use grandma’s, how bad could it be?” It was bad. Really bad. Almost no flavor and really bitter. And I have learned a valuable lesson of some sort. Grandma didn’t notice though. But for me, it was undrinkable. I hadn’t realized till now what a MASSIVE difference good water makes, because I’ve never had anything really bad before. But man...night and day doesn’t cover it.
.m.
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Fri Feb 01, 2019 9:14 am

theredbaron wrote:
Thu Jan 31, 2019 11:53 am
Personally, i do find that going too scientific is the wrong approach. The best measurement in the end is simply one's tastebuds, and a simple comparison between waters side by side. While one may get results with all those measurements, breweing has still so many factors involved which are simply not measurable, such as one's particular mood that day, which can influence the tea, or just the taste experience. In this world of scientific facts (and purposeful denial of such), brewing tea is still one of the few areas where one can experience perception without doing any harm, and can train one's intuition. Which is an aspect that may get lost by too much science.
Which, of course is just my personal view on this.
I understand your point and completely agree with you. However, for me this discussion isn't necessarily about a "scientific" tea making. It's more about trying to figure out what are the desirable properties of a water for tea making (depending on the tea and ones preferences), so that one doesn't need to go and taste every water available in the stores, but can cross some of the list straight up. Or that one can try to improve one's own tap water / well water / ..., through filtering, mineralization, reverse osmosis, et cetera. Sharing and learning what kind of bottled waters other people like, or how they treat it. And maybe finding some pattern....
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teasecret
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Fri Feb 01, 2019 10:40 am

I've tried going scientific and nonscientific. To be honest, your water solution has to be at least repeatable, or what's the point? Whether it's a mineral recipe, or a jar with charcoal sticks, it's gotta be consistent. For example, I've been playing with storing my water overnight in a large jar with binchotan bamboo charcoal. It's been really really good, but today it wasn't. It could be because I used tap water from manhattan instead of brooklyn this time, or that I didn't dry the bamboo and the jar before refilling. Even though this is a more unscientific thing than mineralizing the water with specific minerals, it only makes sense to approach this with the scientific method.

The plus is, as long as you keep trying different things and keep decent track of the results, the science will do itself.

As far as using science to make a great water without too much experimentation, well, there's still a dozen problems to solve before you even do anything.
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Victoria
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Fri Feb 01, 2019 1:25 pm

++1, Still assembling an excel chart showing different properties of bottled water and city water members prefer paired with certain teas. The chart so far includes information on;
NAME _SOURCE (water analysis) _TDS _pH _ALKALINITY _HARDNESS: CALCIUM / MAGNESIUM _TEAs Paired With

If you think I should add anything let me know. Will be interesting to see how it turns out. Unfortunately, I got the flu so haven’t made any progress this week. My filtered city water is pretty high TDS, relative to bottled waters I prefer, so I’m thinking of getting a Titration kit to see how much calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate is in my water. Also, I’ll talk to city water agency again.

@teasecret where are you getting your binchotan bamboo charcoal? So far, I’ve gotten my bamboo charcoal sticks from TeaHabitat, but she’s an hour away.
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Baisao
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Fri Feb 01, 2019 1:57 pm

Victoria wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 1:25 pm
++1, Still assembling an excel chart showing different properties of bottled water and city water members prefer paired with certain teas. The chart so far includes information on;
NAME _SOURCE (water analysis) _TDS _pH _ALKALINITY _HARDNESS: CALCIUM / MAGNESIUM _TEAs Paired With

If you think I should add anything let me know. Will be interesting to see how it turns out. Unfortunately, I got the flu so haven’t made any progress this week. My filtered city water is pretty high TDS, relative to bottled waters I prefer, so I’m thinking of getting a Titration kit to see how much calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate is in my water. Also, I’ll talk to city water agency again.

teasecret where are you getting your binchotan bamboo charcoal? So far, I’ve gotten my bamboo charcoal sticks from TeaHabitat, but she’s an hour away.
That's going to be helpful for sure. I would also look at waters that are unequivocally bad with tea, such as Acqua Panna. It locks-up flavors to a startling degree. I've compared its analysis to other waters that work well but have yet to identify what is responsible for the change in flavor.
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Victoria
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Fri Feb 01, 2019 2:01 pm

Baisao wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 1:57 pm
That's going to be helpful for sure. I would also look at waters that are unequivocally bad with tea, such as Acqua Panna. It locks-up flavors to a startling degree. I've compared its analysis to other waters that work well but have yet to identify what is responsible for the change in flavor.
Yes, good addition. Thanks.
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teasecret
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Fri Feb 01, 2019 4:49 pm

I get my charcoal from morihata.
If anyone has any charcoal usage tips please let me know!
.m.
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Fri Feb 01, 2019 6:59 pm

Victoria wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 1:25 pm
++1, Still assembling an excel chart showing different properties of bottled water and city water members prefer paired with certain teas. The chart so far includes information on;
NAME _SOURCE (water analysis) _TDS _pH _ALKALINITY _HARDNESS: CALCIUM / MAGNESIUM _TEAs Paired With

If you think I should add anything let me know. Will be interesting to see how it turns out. Unfortunately, I got the flu so haven’t made any progress this week.
That would be very interesting. Personally, I would like to see the complete information that is standardly given, or the part that is available:
TDS, pH, alkalinity, carbonates CO3, bicarbonates HCO3, calcium Ca, magnesium Mg, silica SiO2, sodium Na, potassium K, chlorides Cl, sulfates SO2, nitrates NO3 and simple rating: good/bad, possibly including tea pairing.
Maybe it could be in a form of a google doc that anybody could edit to add the data of different bottled waters.
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teasecret
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Tue Feb 05, 2019 8:26 pm

From the world of beer, this article could prove very useful.
https://www.brewersfriend.com/2018/02/1 ... -together/

For further info, this video is good. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJj__jEkFUE
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Baisao
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Thu Feb 07, 2019 3:45 pm

#stopmovinghere

Mmmmmm! Yummy tap water. Why would anyone use bottled water when you can have all this.

#stopmovinghere
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