It is a common chemical fact that water is flavourless and odourless. However, most people will know that water “tastes” subtly different each time.
Taste is composed of information from taste buds on the tongue, combined with the sense of smell from your nose. Although water itself has no flavour or smell, it has many things dissolved in it such as gases and minerals that can be tasted.
This is why tap water can taste bad due to the chlorine used to treat it, or metals such as copper that have come off the pipes.
It is also well known that temperature affects the taste of water. The ideal temperature is between 10~17°C, where oxygen saturation is sufficient, giving the water a “refreshing” taste. Any hotter and the oxygen escapes, giving the water a flat taste, just like distilled water. Warm water also causes the brain to think it is saliva or mucus, sometimes producing an uncomfortable sensation. Any colder, the tongue is numbed and it loses its ability to taste.
When making tea, the ideal temperature is 70~80°C. A simple way to achieve this is by leaving a cup of boiled water for a minute or two before putting the teabag in. This is the temperature when the dissolving of the various chemicals in tea leaves is optimal. If it is too hot, bitter-tasting tannins and catechins are released in excess, whereas if it is too cool, not enough dissolving occurs.