Monday, February 28, 2011

Harmonizing Water and Tea: Choosing The Right Water For Tea- Part 2- Mineral Content of Water



The mineral content of water is perhaps the most important characteristic to consider when attempting to harmonize a type of tea with water. Water contains particles which come from the Earth. Traditionally we say that Earth controls Water. In this respect Earth, and the minerals it contains, strongly influence the energetics of Water. If Earth (minerals) are too abundant, Earth's energy will dominate the Water, thereby clouding Waters essence. If Earth (minerals) are absent, Earth's energy cannot support the Water, thereby making the Water weak and lacking essence. This is natures way.

Let's look at how the mineral content effects the energetics of the water.

No/ very few minerals. This type of water has no body, because water is the body of tea, it must contain body (yin) itself. Water with very few minerals has no body to support the tea's spirit. This water is not appropriate for tea. Distilled and filtered water fits into this category.

Little amount of minerals. This type of water is yang in nature. The water is somewhat light and it harmonizes best with lighter teas which generally have more smell than taste (white, green, greener oolong). Yang type water is appropriate for these teas as the light water's body rises supporting and harmonizing to the rising nature of these lighter teas. When light water is infused with tea, a lighter coloured infusion results.

Moderate amount of minerals. This type of water is neither heavy nor light and it harmonizes best with neutral teas such as balhyocha (Korean yellow tea) and Hunan black tea. Water with a moderate amount of minerals can curb extremes, supporting us in attainment of the Middle Way.

Larger amount of minerals. This type of water is yin in nature. The water is somewhat heavy and it harmonizes best with heavier teas which generally have more taste than smell (puerh, more oxidized oolong, hong cha, aged teas). Yin type water is appropriate for these teas as the heavy water's body sinks deeply inward supporting and harmonizing to the deepening nature of these heavier teas. When heavier water is infused with tea, a darker coloured infusion results.

Too much minerals. This type of water has a body that is weighed down, because water's body is consumed by particles it is restricted and the water's qi cannot move freely. Water with too much minerals overwhelms the tea's spirit weighing it down. If these minerals are very excessive the water will develop a taste and smell. This is because the clear qi of water is bogged down by turbid things, in this case too many minerals. Only water with no taste and smell is appropriate for tea. This water is not appropriate for tea.

The terms "little amount of minerals", "moderate amount of minerals", and "larger amount of minerals" are rather vague and are not quantified by numbers. One never uses measuring devices nor pays too much attention to the PPM (parts per million), TDS (total dissolved solids), or degrees of hardness. Discovering which water is which is something that comes with experience.

The types and diversity of minerals is also a factor. There are some undesirable minerals or chemicals in water that should be as low as possible which include Chlorine (See Marshal'N posts here and here) and Sulfur. Both of these elements add an undesirable odour to the tea. Also the wider the diversity of the minerals found in water, the more variety of smells and tastes of the resulting tea. A variety of elements allow for more interactions to take place with the enzymes of the tea. If the body is engaging, the spirit will engage, the result is interesting tea!

Peace

11 comments:

Julien ÉLIE said...

Dear Matt,

A very interesting article about minerality. Thanks for sharing it.
They reflect experiments with several kinds of water, with low and high minerality.
No minerals is pretty terrible; distilled water is acid and not pleasant at all. Rough. And chemically, distilled water, when absorbed, is not good for our body: our cells tend to fill themselves with more water (because ions do not enter them, and equilibrium must be achieved).

Water with a larger amount of minerals also matches best deeply oxidized or torrefied wulong. Regarding green teas, it often depends on the considered tea. Japanese teas and tasteful Chinese green teas seem to be best with such mineralized water whereas soft Chinese teas are enhanced with low minerality.

Flowery Dan Cong teas seem best with low minerality, contrary to fruity Dan Cong.

Leaves "dictate" the right choice to do in order to maximize what they can give.


Here is an interesting comparison of minerality:
http://www.mineur-de-france.fr/eaux_en_bouteilles/eaux_classees.pdf

mentioned during a discussion on Philippe's great blog:
http://addicttea.blogspot.com/2011/01/les-records-deau-bottled-water-of-world.html



Another point: Akira Hojo often speaks about scaling a teapot and using the same water with a given teapot (of course in clay) so as to obtain the best balance of minerals between those brought along by the water and those brought along by the clay.

Source of the "buffer effect": http://hojotea.com/item_e/d14e.htm (at the end of the Water Section, in Brewing Method)

This remark makes me think about the minerality a teapot can give. Is it as important as water minerality? One should probably not use a water whose minerality is opposite to the one of his clay. Maybe to be dealt with in another series of articles :-)

Using kettles, teapots, teacups and other intermediate containers (with clay, iron or materials like that) keep modifying minerality.

Halasz said...

Which water is good for matcha?

D-Wong said...

Hey Matt,

I haven't gotten around to fetching a pail of creek water, but I was wondering what kind of properties you think rain water would have? Maybe too acidic? I think it would be an interesting experiment...

Matt said...

Julien ELIE,

Thanks for adding a touch of science. Heard from someone that diffusion and osmosis play a big role in the selection of water, the type of tea, and the resulting infusion. The exact process and substances involved wasn't explained. Likely its a complicated process and has to do with the composition and concentration of substances in the water compared to certain bio compounds in the tea.

One meant to add high oxidized oolong to the post (Wuyi yan cha mentioned by David as one example) but forgot. It has since been edited. Also thanks for pointing us to Philippe's Blog. His post on mineral water and resulting discussion is interesting. As is the link to Flo's article in the comments: http://sommelier-the-japonais.blogspot.com/2011/01/histoires-deau.html

Something that should be noted however is that the values for "Super low", "low", "medium", "high", and "very high" mineral content in Philippe's article are not in anyway connected to the values presented here on MattCha's. As Philippe mentioned, each country individually defines how many mg/ TDS make up each category. The optimal range for all tea, the "little amount of minerals", "moderate about of minerals", and "larger amount of minerals" mentioned on MattCha's Blog likely occur in the high "super low" through to the low-mid "medium" range displayed on the chart on his blog.

You mentioned green tea. The more delicate, cool, and aromatic the green tea is, the lower the mineral content of the water should be so that harmony between tea and water is achieved. Deeper the green tea, the higher the mineral content. For example, Japanese green tea. The early spring picked shincha is best with little amount of minerals whereas a goygkro or matcha (a bit deeper tea) is best with a little more mineralized water but still relatively less minerals than you would use for a black tea, still "little amount of minerals".

Sorry for the late reply,

was pretty much off the grid the past few days.

Peace

Matt said...

Halasz,

Your answer is above. Thanks for showing interest.

D-Wong,

In the last section covered in the Korean Tea Classics Book Club, Section 17 states "Firstly, if no river is nearby and no mountains with a spring of water, one should use only water stored from the plum blossom (monsoon) rains of that spring season since its flavour is sweet and harmonious; it is water that makes everything grow."

See here: http://mattchasblog.blogspot.com/2011/02/section-17-well-water-is-not.html (click on the link to the Leaf translation if you don't have the book)

Basically if you are going to use rain water, the rainwater that harmonizes the closest to the energetics of tea is spring rainfall that occurs just as the first blossoms of spring are emerging(or the first tea buds). This water is thought to have abundant qi because it nourishes the abundant spring growth. From a astrological perspective, it shares the same energy of the tea that is also fed by these same rains as they sprout from the tree in early spring.

So in North Vancouver now is about the time to start collecting for the year!

Peace

Matt said...

Julien ELIE,

Link to Hojo's page has great info on the water used for tea. Scaling your kettle is an important consideration. Much of what he has discussed will be looked at in depth in the later sections of this series. He offers a very good picture of some of the do's and don'ts of using water for tea.

Thanks again for sharing this link.

Peace

learning to pull radishes said...

Great discussion. I'm curious about your comment to D-Wong regarding collecting water for the year, which (I think?) echoes your past posts about that Korean pottery vessel (can't remember the name, and now can't find the posts) for storing water. I would think that water which has been standing for a length of time would somehow lose some of it's vibrancy. But perhaps my thinking is incorrect on this matter? I'm curious to know your thoughts on this.

learning to pull radishes said...

(also, what is that picture of??)

Matt said...

Bev,

You are right, If you collect water for the year, how can you store it to maintain its qi? In a way it is similar to aging puerh, how do you age it so that it compounds its essence?

The answer as you suggest is its storage vessel. See here:

http://mattchasblog.blogspot.com/2008/02/containing-qi-living-mool-hang-ree.html

Next weeks section of the Korean tea classics book club is titled "On Storing Water" this will offer traditional insight into how water is best stored and how water is best not stored. Feel free to snoop a head though with a look at the Leaf translation:

http://the-leaf.org/issue4/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/zhangyuan-single-page111.pdf

The picture is the scaling in one's kettle. It has seen a lot of mineral water in its day!

Peace

Ho Go said...

You mention Balhyocha as a neutral tea. I'm not sure I understand what you mean or how you define a neutral tea. Can you explain your idea more?

Matt said...

HoGo,

Balhyocha is not truly "neutral". What is meant by this is that balhyocha is neither a yin tea nor a yang tea, a dark tea nor a light tea. The terms "harmonizing" or "regulating" are probably better at describing this tea. Balhyocha carries these descriptions because its action is mainly in the center of the body. It chaqi tends to impact digestion the most, regulating it. The same can be said about black tea from Hunan Province.

Hope your digestion is "regular" after consuming all that Indian food! Hahaha...

Peace