Sipping a cup of warm black tea in the morning is the way many tea aficionados start their day. If you’re like most people, you probably fill your kettle with tap water to make tea. But have you ever wondered how municipal water reacts with the content from your teabag? Again, if you’re like most tea drinkers, this thought may never have occurred to you.
But researchers are now questioning the safety of tap water usage for tea brewing. This article shares the latest findings on this topic and helps you better understand the underlying process that may (or may not) affect the way you consume your favorite drink.
Disinfection Byproduct Exposure – What Is It?
One study analyzed popular Lipton and Twining’s tea bags and found a chemical interaction between the teas and tap water. A joint study by American and Chinese biochemistry and environmental scientists in the Environmental Science and Technology journal found that chlorine molecules in water react with tea compounds and create an effect known as “disinfection byproduct exposure.”
So far, disinfected water has prevented many waterborne diseases. However, an unintended consequence may be the generation of disinfection byproducts (DBPs). As explained by the Washington State Department of Health, disinfection byproducts form as a reaction of chlorine with naturally occurring matters in drinking water. As water systems add chlorine to kill microorganisms, it also reacts with organic matters in tap water.
The scientists behind the study recognized that the disinfection byproducts might also show in a cup of tea. To find out, they tested three types of tea:
- Twinings green tea
- Earl Gray tea
- Lipton tea
They brewed these teas with tap water or simulated tap water (nanopure-processed with chlorine). The result showed that the disinfection byproduct levels in the tea were lower than in tap water due to vaporization and absorption in tea leaves.
However, DBPs were still present. The use of standard chlorinated tap water increases disinfection byproducts in the tea samples by 12% of the total number of DBPs. Some of the byproducts contain dichloroacetic acid, a chemical used in some medications, trichloroacetic acid, a corrosive chemical that can irritate skin and lungs, and chloroform, a substance that can lead to kidney and liver issues if consumed too much.
Even though these findings may seem alarming, there’s no scientific proof that we should abandon tap water when brewing tea. Researchers noted that more research is needed to better understand potential ill effects in the use of water for tea brewing.
There’s a reason that real aficionados never neglect the purity of the water used.
Making Tea Safer for Everyone
If you often brew tea with tap water, you’re not alone. However, recent studies show that the chemical reaction that occurs from chlorine and other molecules in tap water may be detrimental to the kidneys and level. While it’s true that this is not a widely publicized or recognized concern, you should be aware of the possible health implications. Just remember that more research needs to be done to confirm or disprove these findings.