Tuesday May 9, 2006

So for the past two days I’ve been doing an experiment — using different waters to brew the same tea. I’ve done this before, but it’s been a while, and it was done with longjing last time. This time, I decided I’m going to cast a wide net with the waters, trying everything from Dasani to nice bottled waters from Europe somewhere that costs 10x the price of gasoline, and I am going to try it with my Fook Ming Tong qingxiang tieguanyin in my pot. It’s not the best tea around, but I have lots of it and I need a way to get rid of it. This will be a good excuse.

Yesterday I did it with Volvic, a pretty common French water. French waters tend to be heavy in minerals and full bodied, and Volvic is no exception. When I brewed the tea, the liquor came out a slightly dark yellow. I drank the first cup… and noticed that the fragrant notes of the tieguanyin is pretty much missing. The aftertaste, which is the hallmark of a good tieguanyin, is gone. I don’t know where it is, but it’s gone. The tea itself is full bodied — reflecting the character of the water. There’s a decent amount of chi in it. It’s very strange to taste something like that.

The next two infusions tasted similar. Then, on the fourth infusion, the taste suddenly changed to be much more clear and crisp, but still without the lasting aftertaste. I still don’t know what happened, but over all, it was not a very satisfying brew.

Today, I changed water to Iceland Spring and tried again. Iceland Spring, in contrast to Volvic, has an extremely low mineral content. The water, by itself, is crisp, clear, a little cool, and slightly sweet. It is almost like a distilled water in that it has a bit of that cutting note to it, but not quite, because it’s still got some minerals in it.

The tea this time came out rather interesting. It definitely has the fragrant notes and the aftertaste, which is made conspicuous because of its absence yesterday. The tea itself tastes crisp — just like the water, and there’s a certain coolness to it, even given the temperature of the tea. It is certainly thinner than the Volvic tea, but it is not inferior. In fact, in terms of fragrance, it is much better. The taste of crispness lasts throughout the infusions, and there’s no midway shift like with the Volvic.

I don’t know what water I’ll use tomorrow, but it’ll be something different. This is already rather interesting, and will only get more so when I have more waters under my belt. Maybe I’ll even give Evian a go. I’ve never used it to make tea before.


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