Posted by Arbor Teas on November 02, 2007
The kitchen remodelling industry abounds with accessories aimed at delivering hot (if not boiling) water in a speedy fashion. Recently, one of our customers asked for our opinion regarding the pros/cons of brewing tea with a countertop hot water dispenser. First, her question:
"I was wondering if you'd mind sharing your opinion about hot water. We are remodeling our kitchen and are considering a sink mounted hot water dispenser. The water is filtered and held in a tank underneath the sink, then dispensed through a small faucet on the sink. There are products with adjustable temperature settings. Some can get up to 200 degrees. I drink mostly Chinese black, oolong, green, and white teas (with an occasional pu-erh and rooibos thrown in). I don't want to spend the money if this device is going to make a lousy cup of tea. What do you think?"
We generally advise against using water that's sat in your kettle leftover from the prior day's boiling. Using leftover water can result in a brew that seems flat or stale. Water that's straight from the tap is freshly aerated. Most countertop hot water dispensers (that I'm aware of) don't actually aerate the water. This is one consideration (albeit a picky one).
Will the water filtration system include de-chlorination? Water in our town is pretty good, but dechlorination is always a plus. Also, will the holding tank be filled from your cold or hot water line? Better that it be filled from the cold water line (I know that sounds counterintuitive), because it's my understanding that hot water is more prone to picking up metals and other nasties from your home's water lines (always best to begin your cooking with cold water).
Now for the biggest issue: temperature. While such a system will be great for whites, greens and oolongs (especially if its adjustable), you may not get a complete infusion for your black and pu-erh teas. These are best brewed with boiling water, which, at our elevation, is around 210 degrees. If the system will only reach 200 degrees (which is actually pretty high for these sorts of things), it may not do the trick. One way to help counteract this is to preheat your teapot or cup (if you don't already do this). Just fill it up with hot water for a few minutes, then dump the water and refill with fresh hot water to brew your tea. Teapots and mugs (especially ceramic ones) can suck up a lot of heat, so this can make a big difference.
So, the plusses: convenience, adjustable temperature, and (possibly) dechlorination. The minusses: water may not be adequately aerated, water may not be hot enough for black and pu-erh teas.