Today marks the beginning of a new series of weekly water review posts! Arby from http://empiricaltea.com/ and I have been working on some water recipes for tea. His epsom salt and baking soda water recipe was one of the first I tried years ago, so it has been really cool to connect with him. This week’s recipe has been a long time in the making, and was a collaboration between me and Arby, although I consider this to be his recipe as he made most of the decisions and did almost all the testing, while I offered advice. He designed this water to accurately reflect both the positive and negative qualities of all types of tea, hence the name “Truth Serum.” I’m really excited to share it with the world, and also to try it with a few teas and give my impressions of it. He also has an updated version of this water recipe on his blog, so definitely check that out! License: No commercial use of this recipe is permitted without permission from the creators.
(To purchase the materials you need, please visit the Water Guide.)
Short instructions: in one gallon of distilled or other 0 ppm TDS water, add each mineral one at a time. Carefully weigh each mineral on a milligram scale (not a regular gram scale) and make sure all of it has made it into the water and none is left stuck to the tray. Clean the tray between weighing each substance. Wait at least a minute between adding each mineral. When done, wait 20 minutes for the minerals to dissolve, shaking occasionally. If you have a different size container, use 1 gallon = 3.785 L to convert the amounts. For example, if you’re only making 1 liter, divide every amount by 3.785.
|214.4 mg/gallon Baking Soda (NaHCO3)|
|93.3 mg/gallon Magnesium Chloride Hexahydrate (MgCl2.6H2O)|
|26.7 mg/gallon Epsom Salt (MgSO4.7H2O)|
|199 mg/gallon Gypsum (CaSO4.2H2O)|
|Hardness||45 mg/L as CaCO3|
|Alkalinity||33.75 mg/L as CaCO3|
|Hardness to Alkalinity Ratio||1.333|
|TDS (calculated, will not measure nearly this high due to ion conductivities)||113 ppm|
|Electrical Conductivity at 25ºC (calculated, expected to measure)||186.5 μS/cm|
|Alkalinity % from Sodium and/or Potassium||100%|
|Electrical Conductivity at 25ºC||175 μS/cm|
|TDS (calculated from Electrical Conductivity error and calculated TDS)||106 ppm|
All teas were tasted on the same day, with the same batch of water. The kettle was refreshed for every new session. Table water crackers were eaten between sessions and sometimes between steeps to clear the palate. Water was boiled in a glass kettle using gas for the initial boil and an infrared hot plate during the session.
Session 1: 2020 White2Tea Turtle Dove
3.3g/50ml gaiwan, 100ºC
First of all, it seems like the water is measuring slightly under on the conductivity meter, and I’m not sure why yet. There’s about a 6% error, which I don’t think is too bad. I’ll test again tomorrow after the water has settled a bit.
Early impressions: This is normally a fragrance forward tea, and I’m getting fragrance, but also a lot more. Aroma from the wet leaf is nice and potent, floral. In the mouth, it’s very coating, with creaminess and sweetness. Very floral aftertaste. Depth, likely from the sulfate. Root vegetables. I have to say, there could be more high-note fireworks in the front of the mouth, but they come in the aftertaste after swallowing. The more vegetal notes are apparent while the tea is in the mouth. Thick texture.
Middle of session: Soothing. Good herbal and peppery taste. Hay and cream base is present. Consistent bubbles on the surface of the tea. Sticky texture, no astringency. Honey-sweetness. Great ECA (empty cup aroma). I have to say, I would like a bit more brightness here. Feeling some qi, more than with lighter water for sure. Lots of activity in the back of the mouth/throat now. Sweet yunnan black tea huigan. Actually tons of changing tastes in the throat. Vanilla? Some sort of vegetable taste like fresh peas in the pod. Snap peas!
Late steeps: satisfying potency, doesn’t seem to be running out after 9 steeps. This water definitely extracts thoroughly without feeling like your mouth is being extracted, which is nice, naturally! Pushing the steeps longer now, around a minute. Very relaxing. Good presence in the center of the tongue, giving a solid base taste. Not overly sweet, but some sweetness is present. Aftertaste is very nice. Nothing harsh, but a little bitterness to tell you when you’ve steeped too long. Good evolving bitterness when pushed.
Session Rating: 5.7/10 – pretty good, but leaves some front-of-mouth vibrancy to be desired.
Eating crackers…. now onto session 2!
Session 2: 2001 Zhongcha Huangyin from Teas We Like
3.3g/50ml gaiwan, 100ºC
Wet leaf smell is dense and intense, and minty. I’ve had this tea many times, so I’m quite familiar with it.
Early impressions: thick. Detailed and full savory leathery notes, even on the first steep. Pungent sweet incense on the sides of the tongue, wow! Bubbles on surface of liquor on second steep. Wet leaf has a creamy smell to it on top of the other complex incense, earth and wood smells. Takes a while in the mouth to arrive, but worth the wait. Concentrated oily texture delivering mouth-coating complexity. Bitterness with raisin taste in the back. Sweetness just barely present. Some mouth cooling. I love the length of the experience, it really takes 15 seconds for the flavors/sensations to be delivered in sequence.
Mid-session: Bitter wood, really natural taste. Astringency appropriate for natural taiwan storage. Deep orange peel, varnish, strength and potency even in a 50ml gaiwan. Solid energy too. Warming in back and grounding. Pushed steep brings some flavors to the front, some tannins, wood aromatics. Very crisp, brisk, if you know what I mean. Alerting taste, astringency. Leaves have opened nicely with a wonderful wet leaf aroma of buttery fruit and wood furniture. Something about the taste/texture suggests wax, in a good way.
Late steeps: Hints of dried apricot coming in, still a lot of power. The liquid seems a bit heavy, tends to pool rather than splash, but it swallows naturally. Really impressed by the texture, delivery, extraction and rear-throat sensation. Some cool citrus bitterness is happening, extremely present/vivid flavor and sensation. Pleasant acidity. Aftertaste is complex. Lots of warming, nice! Could be slightly thicker. All sorts of incense powders in the taste. Definitely bitter, no doubt about it, but detailed and evolving bitterness, with a subdued, very dry (not drying) sweetness. Also, great longevity, did not get tired after 12 steeps, could probably go quite a few more.
Session Rating: 8.0/10
Having some light food, crackers, water and a break.
Session 3: 2019 White2Tea Green Hype
Ok! Another tea I know well.
Early impressions: wet leaf full sugary intense young sheng smell. First taste is great, coating. Fruit flavors, lime, bit of smoke. Sweetness, but again not overly sweet. On the less-sweet side. Definitely slightly heavy and dense. Again, lengthy arrival, flavors sensations and delivered in sequence over about 15 seconds. Thick! Nice ECA. Savory vegetables and herbs with gasoline potency.
Mid-session: wet leaf aroma is amazing. Bubbles on surface of tea again. Amazing how there is consistency in totally different sessions from the water’s characteristics. More energy than usual for sure. Briny, I think from the tea, not the water. Good presence in front of mouth with sweet lemon, ashes in the back. Splashing a bit on the top of the mouth which is nice. Rather astringent, which is not unusual for this tea. Potent! Medium mouth-cooling. Salted-watermelon taste (a southern tradition!)
Late steeps: In astringent territory now, but still delivering the base citrus and gasoline-strength. Qi. The fresh citrus is nice, very IPA-like. Cooling cucumber notes hiding underneath the bitterness. Enjoying the texture, grippy and cohesive. Some woodiness/stemminess coming in. Some lemon lip balm notes on the gaiwan lid.
Session Rating: 6.8/10
This is a medium-heavy water recipe, with high sulfate and low chloride. As a result it seems to be more rear-of-mouth focused, and less sweetness/fragrance as the tea is in the mouth. Fragrance comes, but mostly in the aftertaste and can be experienced in smelling the wet leaf and empty cup. Strengths include bringing out complex bitterness, full extraction, aftertaste and thickness. Weaknesses include lack of front-of-mouth taste detail, a bit heavy, and lack of immediacy of taste. However, with patience, this water delivers a great, satisfying experience. This water is likely best with aged sheng and darker teas, rather than fragrance-forward lighter teas. Yancha would likely work well also, especially higher roasted wuyi oolongs. Overall, since I do get fragrance in the session, I think it succeeds in capturing the different aspects of tea in a nicely balanced, characterful way.
Average session rating: 6.8/10
Water rating: 7.3/10
A couple drops of silica concentrate improved texture and cohesion in earlier tests, but for evaluation purposes it was not used here. The conductivity error is definitely something to look into. I also have a version with potassium which I have not tested yet. As is, I recommend you give this water a try, as it will possibly show you a different side of your tea than you are used to. Big thanks to Arby for making this recipe and I’m very curious to see his review! Feel free to tag us on Instagram, @teasecretsblog and @arbyavanesian and let me know your results there or in the comments here.
Next week, new water, new teas! Look forward to it!