A Tea Addict's Journal

Heavy teas, light teas, and the water they drink

January 3, 2008 · 5 Comments

Food for thought while driving 6 hours to go to Washington DC for a conference and sipping bad teabag teas — there are, I think, two types of teas out there, heavy and light. Heavy teas are things like cooked or aged puerh, roasted oolongs (and some aged oolongs), black tea, and that sort of thing. Light teas are green, white, light fermentation oolongs, etc.

That’s probably pretty obvious. I think though that generally speaking, in terms of tea preparation, there are one set of requirements that will work for heavy teas, and one set that will work for light teas. This is of course not accurate, because they each vary individually and each batch of tea will perform differently. However, I think that over time, I’ve noticed things are different waters and different teas that seem to play out consistently roughly within the heavy/light classification. So, for example, a water heavy in mineral content does not work very well with the light teas — the water is often too strong in taste or texture and destroys the beauty in the light teas. A really light water with a heavy tea, on the other hand, can make an otherwise thick and luscious tea seem thin, even though the tea will gain a bit of crispness and perhaps freshness not common in those types. This is not a science, and it is certainly not precise, but it is a beginning of a thought.

Has anybody else noticed this, or is this just induced by drinking Nestle “100% real leaf tea” teabags?

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5 responses so far ↓

  • teautja // January 4, 2008 at 6:19 pm | Reply

    Dear Friend!

    Forgive me for te grammatical errors! 

     I learned walking on my tea way, that mineral rich water kill the rich teas. Mineral rich water means for me principally high content of HCO3,  MG2+ and Ca2+  and Na+ and this elements react with polyhenols and aromas of rich green teas. So this heavy waters (100-250 mg/lit) kills the rich green teas (japanese greens, green wulongs) but you can use it for more fermented teas – su puerhs. I agree with you to “mild” water is not good for shu puerhs or dark oolongs. Anyway in tea context we are talking about waters with 5-150 mg/liter mineral content. More mineral content is mortal for tea.



  • lewperin // January 4, 2008 at 6:36 pm | Reply

    The lazy part of me – is that most of me? – doesn’t want to hear about different waters for different teas. There are so many things to consider without this!

  • MarshalN // January 4, 2008 at 9:03 pm | Reply

    I generally tend to think anything with over 100mg/litre of dissolved solids as mineral rich.  I’ve found that the mineral poor waters (especially around the 20mg/litre mark) are great for greens.  They really bring out the crispness of the tea.  It’s even better if it’s a glacial water — there’s a special coolness to the water there.

    Lew: Unfortunately, water’s the only other ingredient in tea. 🙂

  • Anonymous // January 7, 2008 at 10:08 am | Reply

    I quite often heard that soft water works the best for Darjeelings. Some even recommend distilled water :-O Therefore dj either not black/heavy enough (some would agree with this), or these people are wrong, or we have an exception to your rule.

  • MarshalN // January 7, 2008 at 10:14 am | Reply

    But Darjeelings can run from incredibly green to very dark….. so it really depends on what kind of darjeeling we’re talking about, no?

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