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!