A Watery Question

03Aug07

water bottles by shrff14

Much has been made of the importance of water in proper tea preparation. It’s all true. Using good water is a crucial part of bringing out the best possible taste in your tea. According to the Tao of Tea:

This is because subtle variations in the pH (acidity, alkalinity) and mineral content (Total Dissolved Solids, or TDS) of the water can affect the taste of the brew. Generally, higher mineral content can give a fuller, sweeter taste, while water with a lower mineral content can taste slightly sharper and bright. The types of minerals present will also change the taste and body of the tea.[via]

However, before you rush out to buy your next bottle, ask yourself this: Is the bottled water I buy any different from the stuff I get from my tap? If you happen to be an Aquafina drinker, the answer is a resounding NO. The CNN article also goes on to report:

According to a 1999 report by National Resource Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group based in Washington, “about one-fourth of bottled water is bottled tap water [and by some accounts, as much as 40 percent is derived from tap water] – sometimes with additional treatment, sometimes not. [via]

To make matters worse, The Economist asks if bottled water is proof that you’re daft (British slang for silly).

And then there’s that bothersome environmental question. A New York Times editorial entitled “In Praise of Tap Water” recently opined:

Here are the hard, dry facts: Yes, drinking water is a good thing, far better than buying soft drinks, or liquid candy, as nutritionists like to call it. And almost all municipal water in America is so good that nobody needs to import a single bottle from Italy or France or the Fiji Islands. Meanwhile, if you choose to get your recommended eight glasses a day from bottled water, you could spend up to $1,400 annually. The same amount of tap water would cost about 49 cents. Next, there’s the environment. Water bottles, like other containers, are made from natural gas and petroleum. The Earth Policy Institute in Washington has estimated that it takes about 1.5 million barrels of oil to make the water bottles Americans use each year. That could fuel 100,000 cars a year instead. And, only about 23 percent of those bottles are recycled, in part because water bottles are often not included in local redemption plans that accept beer and soda cans. Add in the substantial amount of fuel used in transporting water, which is extremely heavy, and the impact on the environment is anything but refreshing. [via] [via]

But the bottled water industry is still going strong and getting stronger. This year, Americans will drink more than 30 billion single-serving bottles of water. [accessing the article may require a free registration at The New York Times].

For all the water purists and tea lovers out there (who also happen to care for the environment), does this cause a bit of a conundrum?

Further Reading:

Here’s a terrific resource that lets you look at data from your water supplier. I found out, for example, that the water I drink contains about 0.1 ppb of arsenic!

And that NRDC report mentioned by CNN? Here’s the full text in case you’re in need of some light bed-time reading.

Oh, and one more thing. If you happen to live in California, make sure you don’t drink Jermuk brand mineral water. The FDA says you may “experience nausea, abdominal pain and possibly vomiting, which are indicators of arsenic toxicity.” Ouch.

Photo courtesy Flickr user shrff14. Thanks!

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3 Responses to “A Watery Question”

  1. 1 Phyll

    What water do you use for your teas?

  2. Hey Phyll – I use standard issue Chicago (Lake Michigan) water at home, purified a teeny bit by a Brita water filter. I seem to remember reading on your blog that you use Volvic spring water for most of your brewing. Is that still the case, or have you found a better brand with less TDS?

  3. 3 Phyll

    Oh, I only use Volvic on the rare occasions when I want the lowest mineral content (too expensive at $2.50 per litre at Whole Foods Market). My favorites are 2: the Crystal Geyser brand (since WFM contracts CG for their 365 Days brand, I buy this instead at the cheaper price of $0.99 per gallon) and the reverse osmosis vending machine water (much cheaper at $0.25 per gallon).

    I read that report / news about Aquafina and the general detriment of using bottled water for the environment (mostly revolving around the plastic wastes they generate)…so perhaps I’ll be more inclined to get my water from the vending machine only…or installing a good filter to my tap.


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