How would you describe the flavor profile of your average glass of water? “Tasteless," “plain," "nothing" are words that might come to mind. But, if you take a second to really taste your water (que water snobs), you may find that there's definitely a unique taste and mouthfeel to be discovered.
There are a couple of individuals in the world that are pioneering a growing trend as water sommeliers, approaching water taste testing with the same sophistication and principles as one would with wine.
According to Chad Walsh, water sommelier, you can taste the region and depth from which the water comes from—called its terroir. The taste and quality of both bottled water and tap water depend on the source from which the water is drawn, as well as all environmental factors in the region. More specifically, the minerality, virginality, and vintage play an important role in the water's unique profile, as described below.
The mineral levels that create flavor are measured by TDS (total dissolved solids). TDS can come from both organic sources (leaves, silt, fertilizers) and inorganic sources (volcanic rock, air). A low TDS will generally feel smooth while an extremely high TDS can feel metallic. For example, Waiakea has a TDS (minerality) of 110, giving it a light and crisp taste. The combination of minerals as well as the unique presence of silica gives Waiakea an aromatic and slightly sweet after-taste.
Virginality is indicative of how protected a water source is from its surroundings and is determined by levels of nitrate. Nitrate contamination may come from fertilizer, animal waste products, decaying plant matter, and septic tanks, etc. Considering its secluded nature and unique filtration process, Waiakea boasts a superior rating in virginality with a nitrate level of only .59 mg/l.
Vintage indicates the age of the water before it is sourced. Very young waters like Waiakea don’t have ample time to absorb as many minerals or contaminates (TDS), as it moves quickly from its point of recharge (rain, snowmelt) to its point of discharge (wells, usage points). "Older" waters, on the other hand, can take as long as several decades to travel even short distances, picking up more minerals along the way, and ultimately making for a heavier, earthier tasting water as described by some.
Waiakea is a young water that is constantly flowing and takes less than 30 days to arrive from where it originates. This, along with its unique combination of trace minerals including magnesium, calcium, potassium and the presence of silica, gives it its specific taste and terroir.