May. 10, 2006 - Issue #551: The City Streets
Testing the waters: Vue reviews the flowing bounty of the city
However, on our second-last dinner before leaving, our server informed us that each bottle was only 500 ml, so we ordered two. My wife noticed that each bottle of Voss cost $10 US. Needless to say, after that we stuck with tap water.
The experience caused me to ask myself two questions. First, who would be stupid enough to pay $20 for a litre of water? And was there really a difference between the various bottled waters and tap water? The answer to the first question was, well, me.
As for the second question, I was determined to find out. One evening, two friends, my wife and I sat down for a blind tasting of five bottled waters and our city’s tap water.
The competitors were Dasani, Evian, Fiji, Naya, Volvic and Edmonton tap. Prices fluctuate by volume and store, but no bottle was more than $3. After each sample, we described the taste and gave the water a rating out of 10. At the end, I added the ratings, averaged and compared them. The results were varied and some very surprising. The top-rated water was the Fiji. Most of us had it in our top two. My glass emitted a slight odour and taste of minerals but was extremely full and fresh. It was incredibly easy to drink, gushing with taste and crispness. Interestingly, Fiji water is drawn from an artesian aquifer and immediately bottled, never coming in contact with humans before you open the bottle. This one was my favourite and an absolute joy to drink!
Second place on our taste test was a tie: out of the two, I preferred the Naya. Our only sample sourced in Canada, Naya is owned by Danone Water, which also owns Evian and Volvic. Naya was clean, satisfying and refreshing with a creamy texture. One of our judges noted a flat, slightly mineral taste. While we tried to ensure our comments included some negatives, it was difficult to criticize the Naya.
The other member of the split for second place was the Evian. This product is sourced from an aquifer in Evian-les-Bains, France. This water is much more available in the retail market, despite being owned by the same company as Naya and Volvic. Conspiracy? Probably not. Our judges commented that Evian had a slight flavour and its texture was almost creamy or sweet. We found that the flavour did not linger and it had a dry finish: it was a pleasant glass of water.
Fourth place went to Volvic. This water finished consistently in the middle, with only one judge rating it in their top two. That judge commented that it had a glacier pure taste with a nice start to the taste. Others claimed it had a dull, listless taste and described it as average. Volvic is sourced from an aquifer located in French volcanic rock. Its water pool is nearly 100 metres below the surface and protected by over a dozen rock filters.
Fifth place held another tie, this time between Dasani and tap water. There was a massive drop between fourth place and these two: no one liked either and it was just a matter of which one each judge hated more. Edmonton tap water is supposed to be the best tap water anywhere. Unfortunately, it does not compare to the specially bottled products we sampled. It is sourced from the same place our urine goes. I know they clean it up very nicely so it is healthy for us; that doesn’t mean it tastes good.
Our chilled glasses of Edmonton tap water were earthy, dusty, sour and salty. Some said it was an effort to drink, and it screamed for a lemon wedge. We also noticed a faint odour. After a glass of this water, I needed another glass of something else to feel refreshed.
I left Dasani to the end because I really wanted to pick on them. In case you have been on the moon for a while, Dasani is Coca Cola’s contribution to the water market. At $2 - $3 per bottle, it’s a huge market. A single glass of Dasani had our judges commenting about an awful aftertaste; it was unrefreshing, flavourless and had a lingering, salty aftertaste. While all of our other waters had mineral content charts, Dasani had an ingredient list: fourth on that list was salt! It seems that Dasani wants us to drink salt water so we will need another bottle of water. Conspiracy? I think so!
Our spring water tasting reached its end and we lined up to go to the bathroom. It was fun and refreshing and, while I hope I never pay $10 for a half litre of water again, I would be thrilled if some of Edmonton’s finer dining establishments added non-sparkling bottled water to their beverage lists. I’d buy it! V
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