While water makes up the bulk of any cup of tea, most people may not think twice about the various ways it can alter your tea experience. In this week’s blog post, we will touch upon the importance of water in tea for both Matcha and other Japanese green teas.

 

Temperature

When it comes to water temperature, one of the most common misconceptions is to steep them all in boiling water. In reality, different types of teas have different optimal steeping temperatures and steeping times. More delicate teas (like white, green, and oolong) tend to have slightly cooler steeping temperatures, while some other teas (such as black, rooibos, or herbal) can be steeped in boiling water. To get the most out of your tea, steep it with its respective ideal temperatures.

Higher quality Japanese green teas like Matcha, Gyokuro, and premium Sencha have lower ideal temperatures and a longer steeping time (whisk instead of steep for Matcha). Steeping or whisking these teas in lower temperatures ensures that the tannins in the tea (which make the tea bitter) don’t get released. When prepared correctly, Matcha and Gyokuro will also be naturally sweet. Because they are both shade grown, they possess higher concentrations of the amino acid L-theanine that can be compromised when prepared incorrectly.

Other varieties of Japanese green teas like Genmaicha, Kukicha, Hojicha, and Konacha do well in slightly higher temperatures and a shorter steeping time. Over-steeping the teas can cause the teas to become bitter. 

Below are the recommended water temperatures and steeping times for various Japanese green teas:

  • Matcha – 180°F, whisk and drink
  • Gyokuro – 140°F, 2 minutes
  • Sencha – 176°F, 1-1.5 minutes
  • Deep Steamed Sencha – 176°F, 30 seconds
  • Matcha Infused Sencha – 176°F, 1-1.5 minutes
  • Matcha Infused Genmaicha – 194°F, 1 minute
  • Kukicha – 194°F, 1 minute
  • Hojicha – 212°F, 30 seconds
  • Konacha – 176°F, drink immediately

 

Quality: Soft vs. Hard Water

Another aspect of tea making that is often overlooked is the quality of the water used. When steeping any type of tea, soft water is ideal because it allows for the full, true flavors of the tea to surface. Using hard water can mask the delicate flavor of tea, due to the minerals present. These minerals activate flavonoids, which can alter tea flavor and color.

We like Crystal Geyser when preparing our teas here at the Aiya office, because it is the most readily available soft water in Southern California. We wouldn’t recommend using tap water either. Tap water is often on the harder side of the spectrum, and the quality can vary greatly in different locations. Below is a list of bottled soft water around the world, courtesy of Kasora.

  • Spa – Belgium
  • Valvert – Belgium
  • Aquator – Canada
  • Bourassa Canadian – Canada
  • Naya – Canada
  • Fiji – Fiji
  • Volvic – France
  • S.Bernardo – Italy
  • Luso – Portugal
  • Norwater – Norway
  • Viking Springwater – Norway
  • Highland Spring – United Kingdom
  • Alaskan Glacier Gold Water – United States
  • Crystal Geyser – United States
  • Rocky Mountain – United States

 

Overall, it’s good to remember that when steeping and preparing tea, water temperature is just as vital as the quality of water. Though tea preferences differ from person to person, we highly recommend using soft water to fully enjoy the true quality and flavor of your tea. Enjoy!