Sunday, June 5, 2016

On Water Quality

Water quality is something that I have had to deal with now that I live in the midwest USA. The main issue is that most of the water has a very high dissolved solids content, measurements typically yield what is called "total dissolved solids" or TDS. The measurement for my water was about 450 mg/L making it right on the border of brackish water, note that Brita filters and simple solutions like that do nothing to alleviate this problem. Boiling a single kettle of water would result in some lime deposits starting to form. Worse than that, the high mineral content definitely altered the tea making getting decent tea entirely pointless. Fortunately, where I am they treat the water with chlorine gas so that is easy to get rid of by letting that blow off. I now have a fairly solid solution that gets the water to something quite decent for tea. The procedure to get water to an acceptable level will vary depending on where your water supply comes from, how it is treated, and how it gets to where you use it. My solution was to first have a water softener to remove the hard ions, magnesium and calcium. Then the water is run through a 3 stage reverse osmosis setup, with the 1st and 3rd being carbon filters and the 2nd being the active part with the reverse osmosis (RO) membrane. Unfortunately, this is not an inexpensive solution and an alternative is to buy water from the store, but if it is a local brand likely they are just bottling the same garbage water that you get. That makes it critical that the water have gone through a reverse osmosis treatment (my preference) or is distilled to keep the high concentration of ions out. Reverse osmosis was able to take my 450 mg/L TDS down to somewhere in the tens of mg/L. For the tea vendors and aficionados out there I highly recommend using/getting reverse osmosis water for treating most areas water supply as a minimum. Without this you can be missing out on the quality teas you are getting because the high mineral content really overshadows any flavors the tea has making it not noticeably different from standard low quality teas. There can still be other contaminants to be dealt with depending on where you live (nitrates and volatile organics come to mind), but RO treatment goes a long way. The one place I have been where the water was really nice was Eugene, OR, conveniently the home to J-Tea.

2012 Yiwu Zengshan Pu-erh

From $15 for a 400 g cake

This is a big surprise. I think this is the first ripe puerh I have had where there is absolutely no fishy/swampy (duiwei) aroma at all, which is remarkable especially considering it is a 2012 vintage. It leaves me wondering how they did this and whoever is responsible did a great job. If only they could help all the other producers know what works it could really help the reputation of ripe puerh and raise the quality. This really is a what I would consider a standard ripe puerh. If all ripe was produced in this fashion maybe it would get a better reputation. Its also nice to see some reasonable consistency in the leaf quality and fewer stems and finely chopped material.
(I had found this saved as a draft since I wanted to buy a decent amount before posting. Here it is two years later, it is sold out, and I didn't get any more. Oh well, on to find the next decent ripe cakes.)

Midnight Beauty

From J-Tea  $20 for 1 oz.

This is yet another solid Eastern Beauty Oolong from J-Tea from the 2015 season. My one minor issue is that the leaves are a bit smaller that some of the other Eastern Beauties, but that could be my fault since I have shipped this package around the world twice. The smaller leaves make throwing the tea in a cup and adding hot water a bit more challenging to filter while drinking with the small leaves floating around.