This is a review of the updated Truth Serum water recipe. I reviewed the old version here, but Arby at empiricaltea.com has changed the recipe quite a bit, and he prefers it over the original. Let’s see how it performs now! He recommends making a concentrate of the recipe, which is a great idea. To test it out though, I’m just making a single gallon batch. What’s apparent from looking at the recipe is that it’s very similar to the last recipe, 2/3 Heavy. The difference is that he added NaCl to be able to increase the sulfate and bicarbonate. This isn’t really how it happened, as he tweaked the first version of his recipe over many iterations, but it’s interesting that the recipe arrived in a similar place to 2/3 Heavy.
It’s also important to note that I used a special method to make this recipe. I frankly don’t know if it changes anything, I would have to make it the normal way and then cup it against this batch – hopefully I’ll get around to it! Basically, instead of adding the minerals directly to the water batch, I added them to a pyrex beaker of distilled water and stirred them with a glass rod. When they dissolved completely, I poured that into the main batch. This way, every mineral dissolved on its own, so there’s less of a chance of impurities reacting in solid form. The idea is that if minerals are dissolved in water that already contains ions, weird reactions could take place, so this method avoids that. Let me know if you’re a chemist and if that’s a real concern or not!
(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.
|34.5 mg/gallon Table Salt or Sea Salt (NaCl)|
|167.25 mg/gallon Baking Soda (NaHCO3)|
|77.2 mg/gallon Magnesium Chloride Hexahydrate (MgCl2.6H2O)|
|167.1 mg/gallon Gypsum (CaSO4.2H2O)|
|15.4 mg/gallon Epsom Salt (MgSO4.7H2O)|
|Hardness||36.8 mg/L as CaCO3|
|Alkalinity||26.2 mg/L as CaCO3|
|Hardness to Alkalinity Ratio||1.4|
|TDS (calculated, will not measure nearly this high due to ion conductivities)||99 ppm|
|Electrical Conductivity at 25ºC (calculated, expected to measure)||170 μS/cm|
|Alkalinity % from Sodium and/or Potassium||100%|
|Electrical Conductivity at 25ºC||161 μS/cm|
|TDS (calculated from Electrical Conductivity error and calculated TDS)||94 ppm|
All teas were tasted on the same day, with the same batch of water. The kettle was refreshed for every new session. Crackers were eaten between sessions. Water was boiled in a glass kettle using gas for the initial boil and an infrared hot plate during the session.
Session 1: 2018 White2Tea Smoove Cocoa Minis
Arby recommended I try a ripe, so here goes. For info on performance with fragrant teas, there should be enough results from Session 3 with the Green Hype cake.
4g/50ml gaiwan, 100ºC
Early impressions: Wow! Thick and expansive. Bitter. Woody. Second steep was around 20 seconds. Black as ink. Holy cow. There’s something really really nice about this. The coffee-cola is very pronounced, but there’s also activity in the front. A short steep to see what’s really going on… still has a great complexity and full color. Getting qi as well. There’s a sharpness that’s evident in a lot of higher Hardness to Alkalinity waters here, but you’re rewarded with body, viscosity, and really striking depth of flavor. Wood, acidic earth, and of course, nice cocoa.
Mid-session: Consistent dark color and root beer chocolate in the back of the mouth. Deep aftertaste, but unlike the previous version of the recipe, plenty of vibrance and sweetness. I think it’s the chloride! Anyway, even with very short steeps, still delivers enough strength and color.
Late Steeps: As expected, gradually diminishing sweet molasses, mushroom, earth and vanilla cream. Mouthfeel remains pleasant, no drying.
Session Rating: 7.9
Water Rating for this tea: 9.0
Session 2: 2001 Zhongcha Huangyin from Teas We Like
3.4g/50ml gaiwan, 100ºC
Early impressions: Aroma coming from the wet leaf is intense. Barbecue sauce. First steep is sweet, sour, smoke. Stable bubbles in the center of cup on second steep. Aged sprite aroma on wet leaf up close. Taste is vibrant, dynamic, evolving, hard to pin down. Juicy! Lime juice in front, but not as sour. The citrus is dominating, which is extremely unusual for this tea. Let’s see what happens.
Mid-session: Density coming in now, some astringency, but appropriate. I seriously don’t know what I’m tasting right now. Wood bitterness, not hitting the sides of the tongue very much. The session so far reminds me of natural waters, mouthfeel especially. Ok, hitting the sides of the tongue with sour wood, light earth taste in back, great great throatfeeling, refreshing. Honey aftertaste. I’m finding this tremendously different and enjoyable. Heat in upper back, general relaxation. It’s really tasting younger this session than usual. I’m really taking my time with this one. Tobacco leafiness, light mulchiness. Tons of resin and even bubblegum, or gum base. A little bread dough too, sourdough. Sweet and bitter, sour and savory. (not salty).
Late steeps: Beginning to dry the tongue. Good texture. Really a lot happening up front, lingering bitterness in the back. Definitely arrives in the front this time, where last week it arrived in the back. I can’t think of any explanation – I would usually associate sulfate with more rear mouth flavor, but something’s going on here I can’t explain. I guess the sulfate and chloride are in balance for this water profile. Citrus sandalwood aftertaste. I think there’s plenty going on in the back, but it’s simultaneous with the front. There might be some variation in this cake that could account for this difference in taste and lighter color. But it could also be the water! This was a very avant-garde session. Highest qi so far.
Session Rating: 7.5/10
Water Rating for this tea: 7.5/10
Eating lunch! Then an hour break.
Session 3: 2019 White2Tea Green Hype
3.3g/50ml gaiwan, 100ºC
Early impressions: Delicious. Full of candy sweetness, smoke, savoriness, brininess, sweet huigan, honey, citrus, black tea bud sweetness, body. Wet leaf smell deep and pleasant. Rather salty this time. Salted lemons, is this springbank 10? It’s got notes that I would usually get in much more expensive teas. Texture is great. Taste is nice and present, front-focused again.
Mid-session: savory, back of mouth presence suddenly. Rather expansive texture. Definitely evokes the idea of a “serum.” Smoked fruit. Olive oil. Minerals. Floral mouthcoat. Definitely delivering on the top notes. Sweetness and depth both are here. I feel like with the original Truth Serum, there was depth, but not enough sweetness, so this is a welcome change. Strong lime and even avocado oil here. Astringency is medium-high, rather appropriate for this young, strong raw puer.
Late steeps: Gasoline. Still sweet, still textured. Leafy, astringent honey. Some pineapple taste. Grapefruit rind. Huigan isn’t tremendously strong, but it’s there. Energy is very high, caffeine. Buttery. Lemon jelly pastries. Sweetness and gasoline taste continues through the last drop.
Session Rating: 7.5
Water Rating for this tea: 8.0
A definite improvement over the previous version of the recipe, definitely more of an all-round water. It really has a great balance and works well with at least the three types of tea I tried. It’s also not overly heavy. This water will be hard to beat – I’ll be using it as a benchmark from now on. Perhaps it can be improved with potassium for more back of mouth complexity, but who knows? If your tap water is no good for tea or you are at all curious about water, please give this recipe a try!
Average session rating: 7.6/10
Water rating: 8.2/10
More water and tea pics can be found on the tea secrets Instagram! Check out the Water Recipes page for a list of all recipes you can try. The Water Guide is just getting started, but check back for updates there.