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Historical Praise for Water from Mountain Streams
Since the eighth century, and probably even before that, Chinese tea lovers have concerned themselves with the sources and qualities of the water used to make tea. In Lu Y's Classic of Tea, he gives highest praise to water from mountain streams. River water is all right, and well water a distant third choice (he has a lot more to say about water). Rivers have changed a lot since his time (particularly those of China), and I would disagree about the poor quality of well water. But for more than a thousand years water for tea has been a subject of debate and connoisseurship.
Choose "Soft Water" For Green and White Teas
The choice of water is especially critical for green tea, Japanese as well as Chinese (white teas, such as White Peony, are much more forgiving of hard or treated water). Chlorine and other chemicals assault nose and tongue. Filtering tap water removes enough of the chlorine that it no longer dominates the tea. But it doesn't change the mineral content of the water. Mineral-rich ("hard") waters and many bottled spring waters fall into this class--yield a harsh infusion with green teas. Look for a "soft" water, one with a mineral content of less than 100 parts per liter ("ppl"), the lower the better (look for the mineral analysis on the label of some bottled waters).
Local Spring and Well Waters Are "Best"
In the tea trade, it's said that the best water for tea is the natural water of the area where the tea is grown. Spring water from the hills of Uji, around Kyoto and Kobe, and even well water in the center of Kyoto, is perfect for Japanese tea. Among commercially-bottled spring waters available in the world, Volvic is the overwhelming favorite for green teas. Even our suppliers in Uji, who were skeptical at first, in the end agreed.
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