In my never-ending quest for tea knowledge, the subject of water quality comes up often. When I first started drinking tea, I thought water quality didn’t matter and it was all just a bunch of voodoo talking about filtered spring water and reverse osmosis and bamboo charcoal (whatever that is). Well, the more I drank tea and researched, the more I became convinced that filtered water was the way to go, and that is what I have been using for tea for the last two years or so. I have recently seen bamboo charcoal discussed quite a bit as the best way to filter your water for tea. So, I gave in and ordered some bamboo charcoal from the giant internet retailer for around $7 and decided to try it and see. But not only that, I wanted to compare bamboo charcoal filtered water to my regular ole tap water and the filtered water that I have been using. Time for an experiment!
I used 3 identical packs of Tieguanyin gift tea that I had in my stash. I brewed one with tap water, one with water from my Brita pitcher, and one with tap water that was filtered with a piece of bamboo charcoal for about 3.5 hours.
Note: I used one porcelain and two glass brewing vessels. Ideally, you would use the same material for all three, however, both of those materials are neutral, meaning they don’t add or take away to the taste of tea.
The Brita pitcher water is on the left, tap water in the middle, and bamboo charcoal on the right. The color of the liquor was identical with all three throughout the experiment.
Starting with the Brita water – I noticed right away that it had some astringency to it that I wasn’t expecting to get with this tea. It was light and floral, with a hint of fruity notes, but there was some harshness to it as well. Not bad, but not great.
The tap water right off the bat just tasted flat. Almost as if it was covering up the flavor of the tea, if that makes sense. It’s like I could tell there was more flavor in there somewhere, but the water was blocking it. It had minerality to it, but it wasn’t very pleasant.
Now for the bamboo charcoal water – This one was more rounded and smooth. It had the floral and fruit notes, and some mineral notes too, but they were much more pleasant. It’s like the water smoothed out the harshness that was in the first water and brought out all the flavor of the tea that the tap water covered up. This one was the best, and it wasn’t even close.
I went for three infusions total (almost). The taste really didn’t change much throughout all three infusions.
If I’m being honest, I am surprised by these results. I really wanted to tell you that they all tasted the same and the water didn’t really matter. Because that would make things easier, but as is the case with tea, it is never that simple, and there is always another level of complexity to be added to it.
I also now have to use bamboo charcoal water on more teas to see if it brings out more flavor, and if that’s the case, I will have been missing out all this time. But that is also exciting, because all the teas that I have been drinking and enjoyed will just get a little bit better now.
On a personal note, this is the first time I have ever felt like a tea snob. I couldn’t finish the third cup of tap water tea. It was that bad, y’all. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but that’s where I am right now! Onward to more experiments!
There are certainly more water options out there that I have yet to try. If you have a favorite, let me know. I am all ears and open to any suggestions!