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!

Clay teapot comparison – Jianshui vs. Randová

Same tea, different teapots, different results. Hopefully this is interesting to you! I find clay to have an enormous effect on the taste/texture of a tea.

The first teapot is a 90 ml Jianshui teapot from crimson lotus tea. I’ve found it to work well with young sheng and emphasizing sweetness.


The second vessel is an unglazed shibo from Miroslava Randová. It has very sandy coarse clay with a red tone. I wonder how this will compare!


Tests were done with 5.4g of w2t 2019 snoozefest in the jianshui and 5.7g in the randová shibo.

today’s tea

clay detail
jianshui detail


Immediately on the first steep after the rinse there is a difference. From the jianshui it is soft and sweet. In the randová shibo there is more of a robust character. It’s still sweet, but more mineral and tart also. I would consider the shibo to taste more complex but less smooth. But this is just the first infusion!

you can see the small volume difference between the two vessels – on some steeps I compensated for this by using less water in the shibo. also, there is more leaf in the shibo

I’m very surprised how restrained the tea is in jianshui. Sure, there’s a little bitterness, but the infusion is more quiet. There’s some fruitiness and a lot of sweetness. In the Randová the tea is more expansive with more astringency to coat the mouth. There are more vivid notes of powdered sugar and frosting.

Third infusion, in jianshui it’s quite strong with nice sheng gasoline notes, better aftertaste in the shibo. Starting to be more similar.

Fourth infusion on: jianshui is more rounded, contained and cohesive. Randová is emphasizing more of a rustic taste profile with a lot of focus on the sides of the tongue. The temperature of the tea seems hotter from the shibo. Very satisfying from the shibo, really potent. Much more leafy/astringent in the shibo, and mouth cooling, thick and smooth in the jianshui. Mouth cooling also shows up in the shibo. Still astringent in jianshui on a pushed steeping, but it doesn’t show up until the tea is in the mouth for a long time. I would say the randová shibo has much more flavor up front. It also produces tea with more character.

I’m very surprised how much of a smoothing effect the jianshui has despite being very dense and having a low porosity. For a tea like snoozefest, which is a very characterful sheng, I think I prefer the randová shibo with its mineral-rich taste and emphasis of the outlier character of the tea. For a more comforting, soothing brew, I would reach for the jianshui.

In terms of aesthetic feel, the shibo is quite bulky and natural, where the jianshui is smooth and shiny. They correspond to different moods. I’m glad to know that both of these teapots “work” for young sheng but emphasize different aspects of the tea. You can still taste the wild fruity character of the snoozefest in the jianshui, but it’s deeper within the core of the tea rather than at the forefront.

Let me know if you want me to compare two other clays/vessels with different tea. Thanks for reading!