Temperature of water is possibly the most overlooked consideration for the majority of people out there. Yet, it plays a fundamental part in the enjoyment of your tea.
I have been told many times that someone 'doesn't like green tea because it is too bitter'. This is usually because they are brewing with boiling water.
Boiling water does not burn or scorch your leaves, it simply extracts faster. Tea contains hundreds if not thousands of aromatic compounds which contribute to its taste. Some of these are bitter and drying and we want a little but not too much.
The hotter the water the faster the extraction. When you brew with boiling water these compounds extract at the rate of a 100m sprint and so the chances are that if the leaf is rich in these bitter compounds (as in the case of Catechins in Green tea) by the time the floral and fresh aromatics cross the finish line, much of the bitterness will be alongside it in your cup. When we cool the water down we are in effect slowing the pace of the race (think of a 1000m race). We may have to steep a little longer but we can pour the tea before too much of the bitterness crosses the line.
It is not just bitterness either. Cooler water maintains more of the highly volatile aromatics whereas hotter water brings out more of the base notes.
In other words, the temperature of the water affects the BALANCE of the flavours extracted and therefore is a clever way of making the same leaves taste very different depending on what you fancy. Feel like a light, aromatic and sweet brew? Cool down. Want a deeper, spicier and woodier taste with a dryer finish? Turn up the temperature! Fancy something in between? You get the point, temperature is your way of EQing your tea.
So I STRONGLY advise you to invest in a temperature controllable kettle or at least a quick reading digital thermometer to take the guesswork out of temperature. The ancient Chinese method is to watch the water vapour bubbles that form as the water is heating. Shrimp eye bubbles move to crab eye bubbles which become fish eye bubbles as the water gets hotter. I advise you to brew Greens with Shrimp or Crab eye water but as always this is a matter of preference.
Download our Brewing Guide for my recommended temperatures for all types of tea but please experiment yourself and find your perfect balance.
Finally, let's discuss the Quality of Water.