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To Boil or Not To Boil

Depending on where you are, it is not even a question! There are definitely strong opinions on this subject for both sides. If in England, you more than likely will come across many who believe that boiling water is necessary to make a good cup of tea.

In the Orient however, it is said that to boil the water is to release all the life force, and is then considered ‘dead water’. The cup of tea that results is lacking the necessary chi to provide healing benefits.

Here’s a slightly more scientific approach to answering this question. Much like a great glass of wine, a great cup of tea comes from a balance of delicate flavors. It is the oxygen in the water that pulls out the subtle profiles from the tea leaves. Those subtle flavors are created from the chemical constituents that also give tea its healing properties. This is, after all, part of what makes high-quality, loose leaf tea so exciting to drink, isn’t it?

When water is boiled, the steam carries with it most of the oxygen out of the water (and oxygen is vital to life!). Without the oxygen, it is primarily just heat releasing only the top notes of the tea leaves. These top notes mostly consist of tannins and phenols which carry bitter or astringent qualities. The resulting cup then requires covering up with milk, sugar, lemon and the like to get it down.

All of us have on occasion let the water get too hot. When that happens, take it off the burner and allow it to cool for a few minutes. Then whip it with a whisk to put some oxygen back in the water. It may sound silly, but when it comes to fine tea, oxygen is key!

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