Monday, February 15, 2010

Tea for Hard Water

Hard water (water with a high mineral content, usually mostly calcium) is a common problem in many areas. While brewing tea is a matter of taste, hard water definitely affects the flavor and aroma of tea, and most people seem to agree that it has a negative impact on the quality of the brewed cup of tea. Many tea websites and tea drinkers advocate purification of water, and some even go to the extreme of suggesting use of bottled water to brew tea. For those interested in sustainability, however, this might not be the best approach--bottled water in particular uses a great deal of energy and resources in its transportation and packaging.

Is there another option? And what about those situations where you simply don't have access to good water?

Tea blended for brewing in hard water:

I recently stumbled upon two blends specifically designed for use with hard water: Yorkshire Tea for Hard Water from Taylors of Harrogate, and the Royal Alberta Museum blend from Murchie's. Yorkshire Tea's website reads: "We're actually the only tea company who still go to the trouble of blending to suit different water types." but Murchie's offering disproves this claim. Murchie's explains that the Royal Alberta Museum approached Murchie's to produce the blend for a special occasion, and Murchie's blended the tea specifically for Alberta's hard water.

With some digging I found a third such blend: Pluckley Tea from the Kent and Sussex Tea & Coffee Company. Again, this blend is specifically designed for hard water, this time the water in the Kent area.

What's the secret to these blends?

People wanting more options or seeking to achieve the same effect with single-region tea might want to know what these blends have in common. Murchie's Royal Alberta Museum blend contains mostly Assam with some Ceylon. Yorkshire Tea for Hard Water does not specify what goes into that particular blend, but their other blends contain Assam and teas from Rwanda and Kenya. Pluckley Tea is described as a blend of East African teas, mostly Kenya, and Assam.

It seems reasonable to try East African teas, and especially, Assam, if you have hard water.

I'd be curious to know if anyone has tried this out and validated this theory. Or...if anyone has even tried any of these blends (do they live up to their claims?). I would also be curious if anyone knows of any more teas specifically blended or designed for hard water. Unfortunately, these are all black teas, so I'd also be curious to know if anyone has any experience with which green or oolong teas perform better in hard water.

While using high-quality water is great, sometimes it's important to be realistic; sometimes hard water is all you have access to, and knowing which teas perform best in it could be a useful piece of knowledge.


  1. I moved from Seattle to Yakima and while I am optimistically pursuing opening a small tea shop here, I am less than thrilled with the water here and its effect on my personal stash of teas!

    1. Amusingly, I never had heard of Yakima until I saw some cherries from the area for sale in an Aldi supermarket, and now I get your comment a few days later. Odd coincidence!

      Do let me know if you discover anything more about teas that go well with hard water. I assume, by implication of your comment, that the water in the area is rather hard?