Today's article is going to be slightly different from what you are used to reading here. I have gotten in touch with Kei and we started talking about tea and as a result I am contributing to his lovely website.
Although I love tea but I don’t know about tea as much as Kei does, I know quite a lot about water quality. So today, I am not going to talk about Japanese green tea, but rather about water and how it affects your favorite beverage.
We will have a look at what you can do to improve the quality of water. This will inevitably make your whole experience of drinking green tea even better.
So, without further ado, let's get rolling as we have plenty to discuss here.
I am pretty sure most of us have found themselves in a situation where drinks at your friend's house that lives in a different city taste different.
Different, not necessarily better or worse, just different. With that, you might have noticed that seemingly coffee or tea from the same kettle you have got at home tastes different.
Ever wondered why?
It all starts and ends with water. But how can water affect the taste so much?
The answer is the mineral content. In particular, I am talking about calcium and magnesium minerals.
These two minerals are responsible for two things, hardness, and taste.
So let's dig a bit deeper here.
Both minerals are often found in groundwater. These are also essential to our body, so logically you would assume that the more, the better, but there is a caveat.
Although these minerals are great, everything has its limits.
Too much is bad and too low is also not ideal for Japanese tea, as it is especially prone to the quality of water.
The overall content you are aiming for is somewhere between 1 and 4 grain per gallon.
Now, there is much more to know about ideal water for tea, and if you want to learn more, read Kei's post on the blog.
However, I want to talk about contaminants that will negatively affect water taste and overall quality.
Contaminants that negatively affect the taste - iron, chlorine, organic matter in plumbing, bacteria
You can argue by saying that tap water is treated at the local treatment facilities, and you would be right.
But here is the thing.
First of all, although treatment facilities are getting more sophisticated, there is still a long way to provide truly safe water. Just have a look yourself at the EWG database.
Second, there is still a long journey where anything could happen between the facility and your house.
Third, the condition of your own house or apartment building can contaminate water.
As you see, although treated, water is still greatly exposed to harmful contaminants until it reaches your tap.
So what contaminants are we talking about?
There are hundreds of them, and the vast majority is pretty undetectable in water. Those won't be visible and won't change the flavor.
However, let's introduce contaminants that will directly affect the taste of your green tea.
People who are using well water are mostly affected by these two contaminants. Old plumbing can also start leaking iron into the water.
As a result, iron, and manganese not only cause horrible brownish discoloration, but especially when mixed with tea or coffee, they make a beverage absolutely unpleasant to drink.
Chlorine is the well-established disinfectant used by many treatment facilities.
How does chlorine affect the taste?
Just remember last time you have been in a swimming pool. Yes, that's right. Chlorine is also used to disinfect water in swimming pools.
Not very difficult to imagine how your tea would taste with chlorine water.
Bacteria are slightly different from other contaminants in water.
The thing is, these often start breeding in wet and moist corners of the plumbing or areas like the end of the taps and water heaters.
As they breed, they often create a slime, which then leaches into the water and makes it smell and unpleasant to drink.
These are definitely not all contaminants in water, but they are definitely the main ones.
I bet you are wondering now what you can do?
The answer is water filters.
There are plenty of different filters on the market, so it can be overwhelming to select which one to pick and which you should avoid.
No worries, I got you also covered here, but before we get to them, let me briefly explain what filters are, and what to keep in mind before buying one.
Essentially water filter is a simple housing with the cartridge inside. As water runs through the cartridges, contaminants are trapped within it, and on the other end, water comes pure.
As simple as that.
However, it gets complicated when you decide to actually buy one for yourself.
Here are only three things you need to keep in mind.
First of all, you need to decide what kind of filter you want. In general, we can classify them into five categories.
Probably the most popular are pitchers and faucet filters. They are cheap to buy and will do the essential treatment. However, the lifespan is very short, and the overall quality is not anywhere as good as with the other three types.
Countertop units are a nice compromise between the price, quality, and lifespan. They last quite long, and if you want to only treat water for drinking, they are a great option.
If you ask me, I will go with a countertop unit for brewing the Japanese tea.
Under the sink units and the whole house usually come with many stages and can treat a lot of water.
Reverse osmosis filters are often under the sink units.
I have touched this topic in the previous consideration, so let me expand on this. The type of filter you will select will directly impact the capacity you will be able to treat.
So, if you only want to have filtered water for beverage and drinking, you would go with either pitcher, countertop or faucet filter.
Here is the amount of treated water you can expect for each type of filter before you will have to replace the cartridge.
As you can see, the difference is significant, so be wise when selecting a filter.
Last on our list, but certainly not least, is performance.
Reverse osmosis is considered to be the most efficient treatment right now. It generates water almost identical to distilled water, so you can imagine the performance.
The most common type of cartridge you will notice is carbon or coconut shell. This is the industry's most common type that is often found in all types of filters.
In terms of the performance, it is not as efficient as reverse osmosis but will make your water safe from VOC, pesticides, chlorine, herbicides or heavy metals.
Manufacturers often put a list of contaminants and display the rates removed by their filters, so you can either find it or contact a manufacturer.
I always recommend doing at least some fundamental analysis of water for you to actually know what you need to remove from water.
Finally, we are getting to the part of the article with specific filters.
Here is my recommendation.
Home Master is my favorite for a couple of reasons.
First of all, their customer service is always super friendly and helpful. Any problem you have, they will help you out.
Especially when you are not the person that is very familiar with filters, you will appreciate the help. Imagine when it starts to leak, and you think it's faulty, but actually, it is just not tightly screwed somewhere.
Second, Home Master has a robust build, when you actually touch the housing itself, you can tell that the construction and parts are just solid.
Lastly, this filter gets rid of a long list of contaminants, including fluoride, which causes no-good when you are overexposed to it.
First of all, it is the performance.
If you compare Aquagear with other pitcher filters, you will soon find out that it removes a tremendous amount of contaminants, unlike other popular pitchers like Brita or PUR.
It removes a lot, including fluoride. Unfortunately, it comes with the cost. But not necessarily the price of the filter, as I think it is acceptable for the quality you will get.
The cost I am talking about is in the speed of filtration and the cartridge lifespan.
Because it removes so much out of your water, you will have to accept that it is not fast. So you will need to leave it overnight for water to be ready by the morning.
Yes, it is that slow, and even slower, the more contaminants you have.
Second, cost if that cartridge doesn't last very long. If you treat one pitcher a day, you will need to replace the cartridge once a month roughly.
Let's talk about something unrelated to the pitcher itself - the company.
In particular, I want to mention the sustainability part of the company.
When you buy a pitcher, Aquagear builds water stations in Africa, and part of the margins is donated to that cause.
I think this is brilliant and they definitely got me hooked there.
Another part of sustainability is the fact that you can send used cartridges and the pitcher back to the manufacturer - all free of charge.
The pitcher is fully recyclable, and the manufacturer will do it on your behalf and even provide a pre-paid label for you to send it back.
I have decided to include one of the reverse osmosis systems here as well. Although you have to be careful with these.
Remember earlier, I said that water needs to have a certain hardness and neutral pH?
Well, RO removes all the hardness and, in fact, lowers the pH, which makes the water slightly acidic. This, of course, is not ideal for our Japanese green tea.
The good news is, you can still enjoy the highest quality tea with RO water. The only thing you need to do is to get the filter with the remineralization stage.
Essentially, this is the latest stage in treatment. It increases the pH of the water and adds calcium and magnesium minerals back, but not too much.
Just enough to make perfect and safe water for tea.
The unit I have selected here is called iSpring. It is a well-known brand with a long history here in the US, so you cannot go wrong with this choice and quality.
I won't go into too much detail, as the most important thing you need to know is that it will treat 99% of contaminants in water. That tells you everything you need to know.
This one is for all of you travelers.
Big Berkey is like a pitcher on steroids. Much bigger, much more robust, and with better performance.
The reason why I said for travelers is simple. You can disassemble the metal chambers and nest them into each other and carry them around or fit into your RV.
I think it is always handy to have one of these on the trip. I probably wouldn't carry it when backpacking, but there is a small 2.25-gallon version for this purpose as well.
But for all of those RV fans out there that want to enjoy quality tea on their journey, Big Berkey is a great option worth discovering.
If you want to install a filter under your sink that would keep the flow high, and at the same time, is not as expensive, Woder 8k is a way forward.
The biggest benefit of this filter is that it works without reducing the flow.
Whether you will like it or not, a reverse osmosis system without the external pump can be quite slow at times.
It heavily depends on your house pressure, so if you are often having trouble with low pressure, RO unit might just not be right for you.
Also, reverse osmosis filters take a lot of space inside your under sink cabinet, while Woder is very compact.
Excellent performance in combination with compact size and fast flow is what makes this filter to have its place in this list.
Now let's get to generic filters that I would personally avoid.
Mostly, I advise people to avoid pitchers and faucet filters. But if I have to pick one which one is worse, I would probably say both are the same bad.
But as always, there are some exceptions and good filters in both categories, but in general, I would avoid them.
So what filters to avoid?
Brita has massive marketing, and you can find their pitchers almost everywhere.
Does that mean they are good?
Absolutely not; in fact, compared to other pitchers in a similar price range, Brita can offer much less than let's say ZeroWater.
From the price point, the replacement cartridges are where manufacturers of pitcher filters make money, so in the long term, you will overpay so much buying Brita cartridges.
But to be fair to them, it will still be cheaper than buying bottled water.
The bottom line is, amongst the competitors, Brita is not as good.
The problem with faucet filters is construction. Often manufacturers just save money on it, and after a while, you will end up having a filter that leaks from every single hole.
This is the harsh reality, and therefore I am trying to avoid these as well.
The performance is similar to pitcher filters because the cartridge is pretty much the same, just mounted directly to the tap.
So the only benefit you will get is the faster flow rate as water is pushed through it.
Maybe one day, someone will finally make a robust design for the faucet filter that will last longer than 3-6 months.
But for now, I would probably avoid them.
I believe that by now, you should have a pretty good idea of what filter you need to enjoy Japanese tea.
However, if there are any questions left, please feel free to ask below, and I will personally help you out.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy every single drop of your next cuppa.
Founder of DrinkingWaterBase.Eugen has always been interested in a healthy lifestyle. The more he was discovering it, the more it was apparent that water has a much bigger role for it to be ignored. So he started a web drinkingwaterbase.com where he shares everything he knows about water quality with his readers.
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