Much Ado About Water
I attended a ‘water tasting’ course some time back. It remains a curiosity during conversations and often bemuses my colleagues. When I mention water sommeliers, giggles usually ensue. What’s to taste? It’s just water, right?
“Water is a clear, odourless, tasteless liquid that is essential for most plant and animal life and the most widely used solvent.” We can all agree on that much… well, to a certain degree.
When discussing distilled water (pure H2O), the definition is accurate. However, there are many varieties of water – and yes, they each have a distinct taste.
We’ll examine the differences between the three most available varieties, starting with…
Tap water is the most common, also known as rainwater. It is widely available and provided by our government or local authorities. But it may not be the best choice for drinking.
What’s wrong with tap water?
- Chlorine: The chlorine added to our water can cause cell destruction, decreased fertility, lung defects, birth defects and other side effects.
- It’s been reused aka ‘toilet-to-tap’: Some of the water running in our taps has been there before!
I’m not in any way trying to discourage people from drinking tap water. I just believe we should all have more information available to us in order to make the best decisions. And, of course, every area is different.
When water is absorbed and filtered through layers of soil, stone and coal until it reaches deep underground streams, this is what we call mineral water. Extensive research goes into evaluating if the water is suitable for bottling & consumption.
- Usually, two years of regular water testing are carried out to ensure that the water chemistry is stable.
- Normally this water is harvested from a minimum depth of 8o meters, through drilled wells.
The ‘natural processing’ gives the water unique properties, like its mineral and salt content. This occurs when the water permeates through the different soil textures. It is this mineral content which gives each source its unique flavour.
To be classified as mineral water, it can’t be purified or altered in anyway.
Spring water also comes straight from the source but here lies the difference… spring water sources are closer to the surface and shallower compared to mineral water bore holes. Therefore, the water’s taste and characteristics can change depending on many natural factors.
Normally, spring water sources are untouched, don’t require purification and the catchment areas must be protected within a specified range to maintain the spring’s purity.
If you’re interested in learning more about water, the National Hydration Council (I didn’t make that up) has a great FAQ with answers to questions you didn’t think to ask.
And… if you are interested in flexing your water tasting prowess, meeting a water sommelier in the flesh, or just dying to try one of the £150 bottles of water at Selfridges water cocktail bar, check out this article in Stylist.
- Suffer from jet lag? Reach for some water! Water is very rich in oxygen and will help to reverse the oxygen deprivation that you’ve been subjected to during a long haul flight. You’ll recover much faster than you expect.
- Forget the wine… try food pairing with water instead. We pair water to food according to its salinization and acidity content. For example, sushi needs a soft still mineral water that has low minerality to enhance the delicate flavours, whereas chocolate needs bitter water. The richness of the chocolate will be balance by the bitterness of the water, leaving a subtle pleasant hint of saltiness.