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Blog 147: Tea Tastes Wrong? It’s Probably Your Water

Recently, we encountered an interesting incident.

One of our long-time client in Maryland called us and complained that all her black tea products have suddenly developed a funny taste. The owner of the business speculated that maybe something went wrong with one of our shipments.

We took quality complaints seriously. Since we’re her sole tea supplier, we understand just how urgently a solution is needed.

Upon receiving the complain, our team in China and the U.S. began searching for probable causes. Because our quality control policy requires holding samples from every shipment up to 9 months, it was not difficult for us to trace a product quality problem.

However, after re-evaluating all black tea samples from our previous shipments, we found no indication of a quality issue.

While we were searching for other possible leads, our client called again. This time, all her black tea and oolong tea started to taste differently.

Despite the more severe situation, the new information actually helped us narrow down search to 2 possibilities: storage issues or water quality. Since she’s an experienced tea business owner, we highly suspected that water might be the ultimate culprit.

We asked the client to send some tea products back to us. As expected, all samples showed no abnormal tastes or bad aromas. At this time, we were almost certain something was wrong with her water.

Long story short, eventually, we were able to pinpoint the source of the problem. She had a faulty faucet which was leaking water from the hot water tank. Even when she turned it all the way to tap-water, water from the hot water tank still got mixed into the kettle. Although the leak was minor at first, it was enough to affect the quality of some teas. When the leak became more severe, all teas were affected.

Water from a residential/commercial hot water tank is not ideal for tea. Tank water is usually reheated over and over again. Compared to fresh water, tank water is more alkalic and may even contain unwanted mineral sediment. Tank water makes a tea taste watery, bitter, and astringent. This is why our client reported her teas tasted “funny”.

Black tea is more sensitive to water quality; therefore, black tea was the first to show problems. Oolong tea, on the other hand, is also sensitive to water quality. But because all oolong products are roasted, sometimes problems caused by water quality are masked by the roast. If tea drinkers don’t know what they’re looking for, they might just think the tea tastes a little bit astringent.

Water is the most crucial thing when it comes to a cup of tea. After all, when we experience a tea, we drink the liquid, not tea leaves. Among tea makers, there’s an old saying “70% water, 30% tea (七分水, 三分茶)”, which means that 70% of a good cup of tea comes from water, and only 30% comes from actual tea leaves.

Occasionally, we get inquiries from our customers asking why our tea products taste a little differently in their homes. Although there’re many possible causes, water is nearly always one of the reason. If the situation permits, we suggest our readers to always use spring water or thoroughly filtered water for tea-drinking.

(In the past, we’ve published many blogs explaining the importance of water. Please see Blog 4, Blog 7, Blog 9 for more details.)

We hope you enjoyed today’s blog. As always, if you have questions or suggestions, please leave a comment, tweet us @valleybrooktea or email the author directly at Please also follow us on Instagram @valleybrooktea and join our mail list to get our daily tea updates and our latest promotions!

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