Complex Syrup is a water recipe with a focus on sweet, bass-heavy intensity.
Note: This is a dry salt style recipe, an artificial format geared toward ease of use. This format has certain limitations in its ability to bring the best out of tea. Those who are interested in exploring the capabilities of a finely tuned, yet natural style water should try the new recipe: Truth Serum.
October 8, 2021 Update: This recipe was previously known as Simple Syrup. The name has been changed to avoid confusion.
January 10, 2022 Update: A diluted version of this recipe has been added to the Brew Water section.
Special thanks to Max, author of Tea Secrets, for his review of this recipe.
10x Concentrate – Do not drink!
- 3785.4g deionized water – The most practical solution is to find a <3 ppm TDS RO dispenser. Ideally, use water that has been deionized, but not distilled. Distilled water will be 0 ppm, but may or may not need to be conditioned with aeration.
- 2.210g sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
- 1.415g magnesium sulfate heptahydrate (Epsom salt)
- 0.457g calcium sulfate dihydrate (gypsum)
- 0.996g calcium chloride, anhydrous
Brew Water – Do drink!
The original version of this recipe is as listed below. This was the version reviewed by Max of Tea Secrets:
- 3406.9g deionized water
- 378.5g concentrate
- 8 drops silica (optional) – To enhance the mouthfeel and add sweetness.
For a smoother experience, mix 340.7g concentrate mixed with 3444.7g deionized water. This is my preferred version of the recipe.
Tools – Not optional.
- Milligram scale – For the minerals.
- Higher capacity scale – For the water.
- TDS Meter – For verification and troubleshooting. TDS meters usually underreport by roughly one-third, but at least it will tell you if you’ve made an order of magnitude error.
- Squeeze bulb – Useful in various ways throughout the entire process.
- Silica desiccant packets – These will come in handy for the calcium chloride, which deliquesces with exposure to ambient moisture.
- Consumer-grade milligram scales tend to have unpredictable and inconsistent behavior. Get to know your scale and work around its behavior. Try to load the minerals into the dish (included with the milligram scale) in larger amounts. Loading the minerals only a few milligrams at a time tends to “confuse” the scale. Even small errors will have significant impacts in practice, so be exact. To ensure that the mineral dosage is correct, weigh the dish by itself before adding minerals and write that number down. When it comes time to add the mineral, place the dish onto the scale and tare it. Add the mineral until you get the correct reading from the scale, then remove the dish and tare the scale again. Wait one minute for the pressure plate to return fully to its original position, then weigh the dish with the mineral in it again. The reading should be equal to the weight of the dish plus the target weight of the mineral. You will likely see an error upon following these steps, and that’s to be expected, just add or remove some mineral to get the correct reading. Take the time to be exact.
- Use the squeeze bulb to wash off any remaining mineral from the dish into the water. Some of these minerals tend to stick. Make sure that you’ve filled the squeeze bulb from the already-measured jug of 3785.4g deionized water, and empty any remaining water back into the mix when finished dosing the minerals.
- To avoid precipitation of minerals, wait several minutes after adding each mineral, shaking occasionally. If you notice any precipitate in the water, you’ll need to start over.
- For best results, store all your water in a cool place away from sunlight. You may find that chilling the concentrate prevents mineral precipitation if it becomes an issue at any point. Chilling the concentrate in the fridge will also keep it fresh longer.
- If the recipe does not please the senses, there may be an issue with the level of dissolved gases. Try aerating the water by pouring it into your kettle from a height before boiling it, or by using a handheld frothing wand. This affects the texture by reducing astringency and adding a sensation of volume. Aeration is also closely tied to pH, and it affects the flavor profile by reducing intensity and slowing the steeping speed. It is best to try the water at various levels of aeration to become familiar with the effect. Please remember that aeration is a spectrum. Note that not all waters are created equal. If the brew is too intense and/or steeps too quickly at normal parameters in a gaiwan, try aerating more.
- Never underestimate the significance of good base water. Please try the recipe with a variety of distilled/deionized waters and RO sources before passing judgment. It is make or break.
- Most teapots do not pour quickly enough for use with this water. Also, the recipe is fairly sensitive to clay, often resulting in overly-muted tea. For those reasons, please brew in a gaiwan for best results.
- This post may be updated from time to time to adjust the recipe and/or include new information.
Would this affect any feelings of cha qi from certain teas?
Water affects the qi.
With the Complex Syrup recipe, I have noticed that the qi is plenty strong.
I can’t predict whether the user will notice a difference, it depends on the water one is accustomed to brewing with. In my case, the water I had been brewing with before Truth Serum was less than half the TDS, and that seemed to be limiting the extraction of qi.
Feel free to post an update once you try it.
Will do. I have never felt qi from any of my teas before either, and I’m starting to suspect that my water is the issue. At home, I’ve noticed that the teas I steep can tend to be on the thicker side (depending on the tea, of course, and still no qi experienced), but away from home during the school year, no tea has given me anything beyond a very slightly thickened mouthfeel. I’ll have spare time once finals are over to experiment a bit more, so expect an update later into the summer.
Hey Arby! Update: Finally got to try it with a few teas (though last time my ppm for the water (I’ve had to do gallon by gallon due to space constraints) was 83 and this time was 98 so something’s probably up with my scale). It’s definitely interesting how it changed the profile of certain teas I did a back to back comparison with.
I noticed lightened bitterness and less drying aftertaste on a young sheng from W2T, though the aftertaste felt not quite as strong, and that’s likely because the original sweet aftertaste seemed stronger (though shorter in length than when brewed with SS) when juxtaposed to a bitter beginning, whereas the same tea brewed with SS lost much of the bite. I’ve never felt much cha qi in the way some have described (slowing down, tremors, frissons of energy), but sometimes “good” puer will bring about a few burps, and SS brought that out of an oolong and a white tea in addition to the puer I tried it with, which I’m more than a little impressed with.
I’m definitely curious as to the chemistry behind all of this, and how what’s extracted is either different or interacts differently with the changed water profile, but I don’t know if that’ll be answered in our lifetime. Fingers crossed, and keep up the great work!!
Hey, thanks for following up. I’m glad this recipe worked for you. As you noticed, the 98ppm measurement is in fact an unusually high reading for the recipe. Your previous measurement is in the range of what I normally get.
It’s interesting that you noticed a shorter aftertaste. Several others have remarked on this as well, and I look forward to exploring mineral profiles that do emphasize and extend the aftertaste.
If you’d like to adjust this recipe to your own preferences down the line, I recommend trying the same profile at different concentrations. I think this recipe has the potential to work well at lower concentrations, though I don’t have exact numbers for that.
Many thanks for the kind words.
How does this compare to Truth Serum? Is there a blog post or something about that?
Complex Syrup is sweeter, smoother, and thicker. And there is still room for improvement upon the current version.
Just a quick question on base water since I already have a water distiller. You said, “The most practical solution is to find a <3 ppm TDS RO dispenser. Ideally, use water that has been deionized, but not distilled. Distilled water will be 0 ppm, but may or may not need to be conditioned with aeration."
What specific flavor differences does RO deionized water have compared to distilled? How specifically does aeration end up effecting distilled water? Will properly aerated distilled water taste similar to RO deionized water?
Hi, great question. The problem with distillation is that it removes dissolved gases from within the water. Processes like ozonation can affect the end product of what ends up in a bottle labeled “distilled”, so distilled waters aren’t necessarily free of dissolved gases. That said, there does appear to be variation between brands and even within brands. I have found differences in bottles of distilled water from the same brand, even placed next to each other on the shelf at the grocery store. Also, it is not uncommon to taste off-notes in distilled water since it isn’t usually produced for drinking.
Water that is lacking in aeration is usually thin and drying in the mouth, lacking “substance”, and in the context of tea can severely lack sweetness. Sometimes it’s subtle, nothing obviously off, but somehow lacking the enjoyment factor. Highly aerated water can feel like it rolls through the mouth, but in the context of tea can be problematic since it can dull the flavors and remove many textural elements. A good balance is ideal. I recommend testing this yourself on the water produced by your distiller by aerating it with what is, in my opinion, the most convenient tool for the job: the frothing wand. Feel free to get back to me with any findings.
Thanks for sharing your recipes Arby. Wrt to aerating, how long should I aerate it for and is there a particular method or technique? I use a distiller which distills 4l of water each time, so should i aerate it then or after i have added the complex syrup mix in? When aerating do i just stick the frothing wand in and wait or do i need to actively stir it around? Also is using an aquarium pump a viable solution as well? Thank you for sharing your recipes with us.
When aerating, any depth will work as long as the wand is not completely submerged, no need to stir it around. Start with slight amounts of aeration, say 1 second at a time, to judge the effect. You can aerate the tea itself or the water in the kettle, which would be the default option. Both ways can work although they aren’t exactly the same. I don’t know anything about aquarium pumps.
Thanks Arby! Just got a milk frother from Amazon. Another question if you don’t mind. Is it possible to do a 100x concentrate by upping the proportion for the 10x by 10? I feel I’ll get put off pretty quick if i have to make it every other week
Unfortunately the recipe can’t be concentrated that high. In fact I’ve heard of people running into issues at 10x. Probably CaCO3 precipitation. It appears as a layer of dust at the bottom and it doesn’t look like much, but it ruins the water when it happens. Tea will just stop tasting good. So you may even need to reduce it to 5x if you run into that issue.
If you’re not feeling up to making water all the time, you can always leave it to me. Untitled is by far my best water recipe, and can even be used for coffee equally effectively. Find it here: https://empiricalwater.com/products/untitled?selling_plan=2554659067. I recommend ordering the Reformulatuon as it’s a much better value.
Could I use 9 ppm water from a local spring instead of RO?
It wouldn’t be Complex Syrup anymore if 9 ppm water is used to mix the recipe, but it’s worth trying. It might even have better results if the mineral composition of the spring water is suitable.
Is it possible to leave out one ingredient and only mix it when brewing? I previously looked at the untitled and was keen to get some, but then i saw that delivery to the UK is almost 100 bucks. 😅
Ah well that’s unfortunate, sorry to hear that. I think a better solution would be to make single salt solutions so that you can prepare the recipe in a fraction of the time. You’ll need to do the calculations though
Yeah i think that’s probably the most viable solution for me. Thanks again for all your help. Much appreciated! 😊