Greetings! My daughter and I recently had the pleasure of vacationing in New England. While visiting with old friends, we were able to enjoy a few cups of tea everywhere we went. If you have visited our shop, then you probably heard us mentioning how your water will GREATLY affect the taste, strength and brewing time of your tea. Since I travel a few times a year, I thought I would start sharing my experiences of brewing our tea around the country.
In this blog I’m going to share our experience with the different types of water, explain a few tools you can use to experiment with tea preparation, and a bit about the science behind it. Our tea travels included a hotel and ocean area in Rhode Island, a lovely bed & breakfast beside a pristine lake in New Hampshire, and an unexpected overnight stay in a North Carolina airport. So, let us explore our traveling tea adventures in New England!
We all know that tap water varies greatly from highly sought-after spring & well water varieties, to the often despised and chemically treated city waters. At the end of the day, when it comes to brewing tea, it really all comes down to the minerals verses chemicals in each drop. Since our tea is either a root, fruit, herb or tea plant, it grows from the ground & is naturally filled will good minerals from the earth. Therefore, the more natural minerals your water contains, the better your tea will taste and brew as the minerals in the water will enhance the tea. In contrast, the more sterile, chemically treated, purified (distilled/reverse osmosis) the water is, the harder it will be to brew since the minerals in the tea will be “watered down” and shared by the more sterile or chlorinated waters.
We brewed six different teas during our trip – Four Seasons of Spring Oolong, Vanilla Lemongrass, Rose, Holy Basil, Cold Chaser and Mint Chocolate Rooibos. Our first day in Rhode Island, we had a lovely oceanside dinner. The tap water was akin to desalinated ocean water, I could faintly smell & taste the ocean in each sip. In contrast, our hotel was so purified it was a bit like drinking sterile air. The Cold Chaser and Oolong teas tasted bitter brewed with the ocean water, so we used two teaspoons of tea instead of one which overpowered the harsher water. At the hotel, I brewed my traditional evening cup of Rose. Here in Branson my steep time is between 5-7 minutes, but in the sterile atmosphere of the hotel water it took nearly an hour to achieve the strength I am accustomed too. On my second attempt, I found it brewed better with twice the normal amount of roses and 30 minutes of steeping time.
If you have either of these types of water, try adding sweetener, a little more tea, or extending the steeping time to accommodate the treatment process of your water. Adding a touch of sweetener to the brew will balance out the bitterness, intensity, sterilization or chemical aftertaste that often accompanies this variety of water. We recommend using whichever sweetener your pallet is accustomed too – white sugar, mineral rock sugar, honey, monk fruit juice, stevia, etc.
In contrast, the lovely bed & breakfast near Sanbornton, New Hampshire overlooked a lake and provided guests with deliciously mineral dense drinking water. The Vanilla Lemongrass, Mint chocolate Rooibos and Holy Basil not only brewed in their traditional steeping time window, they had a delightful sweetness from the natural taste of the water. You see, when you have two substances that both contain minerals, they combine to create a naturally sweeter taste and enhance one another. However, when the water is harsh or sterile, it drains all the minerals from the tea and creates a “watered down” or “weak” effect.
So, if your tea isn’t brewing as strong, sweet or flavorful as you want, look into your water. Try different types (tap, mineral, filtered, spring, etc.), or experiment with adding a tad more tea to the brew, a touch of sweetener or steeping a few minutes longer.