In the new issue of Oxford American magazine, writer Gideon Lewis-Kraus immerses himself in the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting. At this upscale gathering, connoisseurs rate the subtleties of various bottled waters. It's a delightful premise for a feature story, and Lewis-Kraus handles it masterfully. From the article:
Europeans drink water for what’s in it, for its minerality, while Americans tend to drink water for what’s not in it. As water commutes through the earth’s crust, it “acquires a personality” or “develops a style.” Magnesium might give water one particular flavor, while potassium–which Arthur pronounces “botazhium”–might give it a different flavor. Silica can make a water feel silky. The Japanese like young water, water that has not spent years streaming through geological filters like aquifers. One can be trained to be more perceptive about water. One really can be trained to be more perceptive about water. The results vary little from year to year, which lends some credence to these proceedings.
On the tables in front of us are pink “trial” judging sheets. Across the top run a series of boxes for water numbers, and down the side is the set of criteria we’ll be using....
Overall Impressions is scored out of fourteen points, which makes the total available points for each entrant an eyebrow-raising forty-nine. The fourteen-point scale is provided to us on an attached sheet. It was developed by a food scientist at UC Berkeley named William Bruvold. In the ’60s, he pioneered experiments in the acceptability levels of total dissolved solids in water, and he used his students as subjects; he incrementally increased the turbidity of the sample until the water came to resemble Turkish coffee and his students refused to drink it.
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