Water Review #10 – Sant’Anna

A HUGE HUGE HUGE thank you to sjt from https://therhymingleaf.info/ and Sara from https://italianteasociety.com/ for smuggling this water to me. Sara stopped by Puerh Brooklyn last Sunday to give me two 1.5L bottles of this water – a common water found in Italy. Water is heavy, so this is no small favor! Sjt has been working on replicating this water from scratch on his blog, which you should definitely check out. Amazing detailed explorations and experiments.

What’s interesting about this water is that it’s incredibly low TDS, at 22, but has been reported by sjt to have amazing aroma, body and texture. How could this be? I was very excited to try it, and it really delivered.

be like the baby, drink sant’anna

Untitled 03

7.2g 110 ml glazed pot

Electric kettle

Water: Sant’anna

TDS: 22

Ca: 3.3

Na: 1.5

HCO3: 11

Conductivity: 37 uS/cm

Silica: 6 (measured)

Arrives surprisingly deep and savory. Already really detailed in the middle and back of the mouth with big aftertastes and a sort of effervescence of flavors on the tongue. Whoa! 

The taste is not too strong at all but is very present. It doesn’t attack the front of the mouth but instead hits the whole palate at a moderate pace, about 2-3 seconds after the sip arrives. I can already tell there is a balance here. It seems so textured and rich for a water this light. Compared to Poland spring origin which is more forward and front of mouth (still with body).

Steep 2: vivid, oily, citrus oils, wood oils pungency is there like bright hops (think New England IPA) what’s funny is I’ve had and made many waters that have this sort of arrival, but end up tasting muddy and flat – this holds up that structure without weighing itself down. But it’s not being too nice! The strength of a water like Truth Serum from way back in the early experimental days, so high in sulfate – there must be a good amount of sulfate in here doing its job to deliver plenty of strength and potency. Empty cup aroma is so nice, honey and flowers.

Leaves inside the teapot look happy. Always a good sign. 

Steep 3- Really enjoyable and refreshing, full. You can taste the medium -endness of this tea, strengths and limitations. There’s a slight leafiness that brings it down to its level of $68/200g. 

Steep 4- You can start tasting how lean this water is, as I’ve reboiled it a few times the texture starts to decrease a little bit. It still rings with very present flavor, very easy to drink, and the texture still holds together. I feel like I can taste layers of fine details. The huigan is ringing and buttery. Astringency is not a problem at all, less astringency than average. 

Steep 5- Oily – it really highlights flavors you would usually find in a scotch, and I don’t mean smoky – I mean the alcohol-soluble fruits, peel oils, savory herbs, wood… But somehow here conveyed by water. Fresh and deep.

Steep 6- Qi is definitely there. I have a feeling that when the tea tastes good, it activates and allows the circulation of qi, as well as the focus and attention conducive to experiencing it. But anyway… The tea maintains great structure, tasting deeper into the leaf, as the high notes fade away to a fruit pectin and wood oil kind of experience. It’s sweet, not too sweet, bitter, not too bitter, has tannins, but not too much. I do have to say the arrival of flavor is much more immediate now; pretty much instantly when you take a sip there’s the citrus oils being presented. There’s a little peach juice too that comes later.

Later steeps- simply fades out elegantly. Some heavier waters make the tea go a bit off tasting in late steeps, but this water simply has nice, sweet, quiet late steeps. 

From this session, I can tell – this water is definitely the type I look for, but on the lightest possible end of that. It’s amazing what it does with so few minerals and I believe everything here is in balance, with enough silica and good dissolved gases to be just as water should be. It makes me think my previous experiments are not too far off track. It’s just so pure and precise, and I love how it delivers every aspect of the tea. I’m very excited to try it with some mid-aged puers, like 2016 Treachery pt. 2, and also some dancong against nyc tap in a side by side. Thanks again to Sara and sjt!

Water Review – Untitled (New Version)

1 Liter of hand-crafted water in a beautiful glass bottle arrived at my apartment last week. This is the new iteration of Untitled by Arby at Empirical Water based on some of my previous feedback on the water. This new version was reviewed by mgualt here. You may remember my review of the previous version was very positive, but I later realized it could use improvements in texture to give a more natural and expansive experience. In the past months I’ve been working on my palate, trying many blends of bottled and filtered waters, getting a better understanding of the range of characteristics of waters for tea.

Fortune teller

6.8g 110ml glazed pot

Novak ceramic kettle

Water: Untitled 

Steep 1: 

Very substantial texture. A very oily steep. Tasting older than usual. Rich. Mushrooms, roots, herbs, mint, strength. Huigan (aftertaste echo on the breath) is sweet bubblegum and lemony root beer. Qi is warming and uplifting. 

While I drink this, a huge, dense, dark thunderstorm started – I wonder if nature is mad that we’re taking over its job? Regardless, nature is making water too. 

Steep 2:

A longer steep around 25 sec: seriously good delivery. Very detailed and smooth. Prolonged expression of flavors. There’s definitely a sense that this favors dark, sweet flavors, but does so in a satisfying, forward-enough way. Specifically, there’s a sweetness on the front of the tongue that is distinct and vivid, coincident with everything else. It’s quite fun to visualize where all the flavors and sensations are happening. Definitely makes the tea feel like a gastronomic event.

Steep 3: 

Quicker steep, fairly buttery, a bit watery. Astringency is low-medium. Really long satisfying aftertaste and throat feel, and nice body feel as well. 


Watery entry but with texture. It’s as if the tea creates a textural void which is then gradually filled with flavors. It starts with the root bitterness, then the sort of buttered popcorn and honey, then the light citrus and florals and herbs at the end. They are all present at once, but the focus shifts. 


More bitterness, still nice rich oils. Still nice thickness but still has a watery quality, unlike really heavy waters that are all thickness and density with no refreshment or space. Simplifying in taste a bit to wood oils, like fresh oak.


Getting really woody now, and something that reminds me of lime jello. Astringency medium high. 


Last, long steep

The storm is over!

Not too strong, still nice layered mushrooms and wood and herbs. A bit less sweet, more dry in a nice way. 

Trying a green oolong:

Leaf of the east dong ding in 100ml gaiwan- 

It’s got a good taste of the roast and a good body and sweetness, but it is lacking that upfront fragrance and refreshing presence. Not the best fit. Still has a nice complexity to it, but a bit subdued. Still enjoyable. 

Water rating: 8.2 – great for teas focused on richness and deep complexity, and usable across the spectrum of teas with what I would expect to be varying results. Really nice water that really doesn’t feel artificial. Nicely done Arby!

Welcome to Tea Secrets

Here is a picture of some tea. I decided to use this pot because it was my newest one. I decided to drink some 2005 Xiaguan 8653 because it was in a sample bag from a group buy and I figured it wasn’t going to age any more in the bag, so time to drink it up. It worked well with the pot, but that’s beside the point.

Did you know that Gongfucha, and/or chadao, and/or whatever this is called, is in some respects fairly new, and influenced by multiple cultures and dialogues between China, Japan and Taiwan? Famous tea blogger MarshalN wrote this, which is how I found that out: http://www.marshaln.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/GFC1601_06_Zhang-3.pdf

I used to think there is “the chinese way” of making tea, and that it had been around for thousands of years. Now, things make a lot more sense. This way of making Chinese tea is not 100% Chinese and not that old, and that opens things up a bit so you can use whatever you want as an active participant in an ever-evolving global tea culture. We have in this picture a chinese teapot bought from a hong kong vendor, a chinese cup, a czech plate with japanese kohiki glaze style, a sake pitcher made by a ceramicist in brooklyn, and chabu (tea mat) from a French dude in Taiwan.

This isn’t anything particularly edgy, but it is worth noting that tea drinking is a global phenomenon and everyone does it in their own style. It’s pretty cool to have teaware from all over the world interacting together in one session.

Anyway, on this blog I’m going to try to explore the more abstract concepts in puerh and other teas because I’ve found it all to be very, very interesting.

Thanks for reading.

-Tea Secrets