Water for Tea (Part I)

Great tea begins with great water.

Great tea begins with great water.

Jennifer Leigh Sauer brings our attention to the elemental ingredient in great tea: water. “Before tea there is water.  While you invest time and money to procure great tea, you might also want to consider your investment in “gathering” and brewing water for tea.

Before tea there is water.  While you invest time and money to procure great tea, you might also want to consider your investment in “gathering” and brewing water for tea.

Any cup of tea will be at its best when you use the finest water available, heated to the optimal temperature for the particular tea.

While I don’t profess to be a tea master, I’ve made it my life’s work for the past three years or so to research tea for my book and blog by interviewing great tea masters.  They all have different preferences and standards when it comes to water, and I’ll share with you some of what I have learned from them.

One of the most engaging tea experiences I have had was my recent visit with the legendary tea master David Lee Hoffman. During this second tea encounter at Hoffman’s home, he gave me the choice of having tea in his open-air teahouse or at a fire pit just behind the teahouse.

Despite my appreciation for his gorgeous teahouse which he built himself, I chose the latter.  At the fire pit, we would be building a fire together and brewing our water over it.  I thought this would be fun and I liked the idea of building a fire together for tea.

Brewing water this way seems to change the character of the water and certainly that of the tea experience.  Hoffman told me that he regularly collects water for tea from an undisclosed local stream. He also occasionally makes a trip up to the Sierra Mountains and when he does, he brings a bit of water back for making tea at home. When in the Sierra, he likes to collect water from high mountain streams that come from glacier runoff, and most appreciates water that has aerated from cascading, and which has picked up dissolved minerals along its journey. This is an amazing standard and reminds me that how we live is sometimes much more important than what we do.  This is what gives meaning to life, and therefore, adds to our personal success.

In my next blog I will share more on preparing water for great tea.

-Jennifer for Samovarlife.com

Jennifer Leigh Sauer is a freelance photographer, award-winning video journalist, and author based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the author of The Way to Tea: Your Adventure Guide to San Francisco Tea Culture (2007). Click here to reach her by email.

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