Tea expert favours soft water for a cuppa

The ongoing soft water vs hard water for tea debate has had another resounding endorsement in favour of the soft stuff, courtesy of none other than an expert currently serving at the Tea Research Association of India. Bedford-born businessman Nigel Melican was recently appointed as Centenary Chair in Tea Quality and Manufacturing, according to the Bedfordshire News, and for him there’s no question about whether hard or soft water makes a better cuppa: “You need the best possible quality water and best example of the tea that you like. In Bedfordshire we have hard water so I use a water filter for the tea. Hard water doesn’t leave a good flavour and scum in the cup.”

The 72-year-old is the owner of Northing But Tea and Teacraft, two Bedford-based businesses that supply a dizzying array of teas from around the world. His work has taken him to 26 different countries in the past, but even with his extensive knowledge of tea Mr Melican admitted that his appointment to the Tea Research Association of India was a surprise. “It’s an honour, particularly for a European to be appointed,” he told the newspaper.

Mr Melican added that while he appreciates the teas of East Africa, particularly Rwanda and Kenya, for him there’s nothing better than a strong cup of Yorkshire Gold – made with water from a water filter, of course. His new role will see him finding solutions for the challenges the tea industry faces over the next two decades.

Perhaps surprisingly, he predicts that the United States – not usually considered a tea-lover’s hotspot – could become one of the world centres of tea production in the future, as farmers have adopted machine harvesting and the nation produces teas similar to Assam. He added: “Up to 2010 we were second in the world in terms of tea imports, but we’ve been overtaken by the USA.”

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