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Chinese Traditional Tea Ceremony and Water Used to Brew the Best Tea

Chinese tea ceremony and water quality are essential aspects. The tea ceremony is a significant part of Chinese traditional culture. Chinese people have drunk tea since ancient times. Therefore, they have a plethora of knowledge and experience with tea and tea making.

Although water is an entirely neutral drink based on its pH value and flavor, each water source has a distinctive taste. Good water will give the tea a unique taste, while distilled water has an insipid taste. The water provides the background flavor of the tea.

In the Emperors’ time, water purity was a significant challenge for the tea-drinking ceremony. Masters of tea ceremonies believed that water from certain places could improve the tea flavor, such as particular wells and streams. Several mountains and rivers waters in China are famous for use in the tea ceremony, such as Jiangsuzheu river, Wuxihui mountain, Suzhou, and Hangzhou Pond.

In the Tang Dynasty, master Lu Yu recommended straining the tea water using a metal sieve to remove pollutant particles. This practice indicates the water quality back in the day. Today, water quality and purity are also uncertain. Polluted water with a foul taste is not suitable for tea ceremonies.

However, nowadays, clean water is available in most the developed countries. The flavor and texture of hard water are not suitable for tea making. Distilled or bottled water should be used when the tap water is not neutral in taste and flavor. If tap water contains high sodium levels, it is best to let it sit in a container overnight or boiled for an extended period.

Ideally, the water for the tea should be very pure and not too alkaline, without added minerals such as iron, magnesium, or calcium. The tea leaves are slightly acidic, so that the tea will have a pH of about 5.5. A pH of 7 is preferred.

WATER TEMPERATURES

When preparing high-quality green tea, the water temperature should not be 100 degrees. The water temperature must be about 80 degrees (after boiling, the water should be left to cool down a while). This way, the color of the tea and the taste will be better, and the tea will have more vitamin C in it. If the water is too hot, the tea changes its color, and the taste becomes bitter.

However, some teas such as red tea and Hua tea can be prepared with 100 degrees water. It is because, at a lower temperature, the tea will not be brewed enough, becoming plain. Pu’er or brick tea also requires hot water as the tea is compact and kept for an extended period.

HOW TO BREW A TEA

Brewing a tea rule depends on several factors such as the time, techniques, tea type and amount used, water temperature, and personal preference. About 3 grams of tea are used to brew 200 ml of water.

Place small amounts of tea in the cup and pour hot water to cover the tea. Brew the tea for about 3 minutes, then pour more water into the cup to cover about 80% of the cup. The cup can be refilled with water when there is water left to cover the leaves. When preparing the water, the color of the tea, the smell, and the taste must be considered. Usually, the water can be added until the taste fades.

The hot water means a shorter time for brewing.  A lower temperature and less amount of tea mean longer brewing times. It is best to find the appropriate brewing times for a preferred flavor and taste!

Dr. Rhea Du

Dr. Rhea Du

International Shaolin Cultural Exchange Ambassador of Shaolin Temple Yunnan