Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Learning by osmosis

"Mountain water is best," wrote Lu Yu in his still-prized, eighth-century advice for preparing a proper pot of tea. Would that I could dip my ladle into a clear stream, but I was not born into an age (or at least an altitude) where that would be advisable pretty much anywhere on the planet. At home, we must filter out the various age-old natural contaminants and industrial-age pollutants.

Throughout my tea life thus far I've relied on basic filters, mostly of the Brita brand. However, some kind of karma coupon was cashed in recently, and I've moved into a new house equipped with a reverse-osmosis system right there under the kitchen sink.



Safe to say, my tea experience with the super-fine-filtered H20 thus far (good info and diagrams here) has been transformative — both good and bad. I don't claim to know much about the chemistry of tea and water, but experience has taught me that the level of minerals in the source liquid directly affects the taste, color and often odor in the cup. This five-stage filtration I've got now produces a kettle full of water that is seriously free of stray solids. Whereas a Brita filter screens out most visible solids, chlorine and some aromas, reverse osmosis extracts pretty much all minerals from the water.

That's been great for light teas. The herbals and white teas I've brewed here thus far have been nicely flavorful — standing on their own, with a richer mouth feel and no water minerals getting in the way. Greens have been mixed, though many are coming up a bit flat, and black teas swing between the extremes. My morning cup of Rishi China Breakfast is lighter and brighter than ever — a surprisingly good thing, given my penchant for inky-black tea — but my beloved keemuns have wilted without the mineral content, which I'm assuming assists in the spiking of its spicy flavors.

I have not retired my countertop Brita pitcher.

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