It Tastes Like Water
An informal panel picks top choices from 11 brands of bottled H2O
Water is not only an important part of the environment in which we live in Southwest Florida, but it’s also vitally important for life—for our bodies to function—no matter what area of the country our bodies reside in.
It’s recommended that the average person drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. However, that amount can easily increase based on a variety of factors. And what is the main source of your drinking water: tap, home filtration system, delivery service or bottled?
According to bottledwater.org, the website of the International Bottled Water Association, in 2016, bottled water surpassed carbonated soft drinks to become the largest beverage category by volume in the United States. While regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, not all bottled water is created equally:
Spring water comes from an underground formation with water that naturally flows to the surface of the earth.
Artesian water comes from a well that taps a confined aquifer. Purified water can come from any source originally and then goes through distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis or similar processes.
No minerals can be added to mineral water. It’s natural water that must contain a minimum amount of dissolved solids. (Minerals give water flavor and are often added to bottled brands.) But the big question is: How do they taste? After hearing a friend describe himself as a “water snob,” I decided to host a water-tasting event and put him to the test. I’ve done similar events with wine and various spirits—yet recruiting a panel for this one wasn’t nearly as exciting or easy as that for adult beverages.
Attempting to keep the comparison as equal as possible, I purchased a variety of non-sparkling water in plastic bottles from two major retailers in close proximity to one another. However, I had no indication of how they were shipped or stored—meaning heat exposure, which can affect quality.
We tasted the water at room temperature, out of glassware, and all bottles were in brown bags so the labels would not influence us. Of the 11 bottles we tasted, hands down the top two were Evian and Fiji, followed closely by Zephyrhills and then Dasani.
Evian is natural spring water from the snow and rain of the French Alps. Manufacturers say it takes 15 years for the water to make its way through mountains, rocks and glaciers before reaching its underground source. It tastes soft and has a slight bit of salinity. It’s a brand that is committed to reducing its carbon footprint.
Fiji water starts in the rainforest of the Pacific island and is filtered through volcanic rock. It, too, is soft, clean and oh-sofresh. Owned by The Wonderful Company, Fiji claims to be the No. 1 imported bottle water in the U.S.
After hearing a friend describe himself as a “water snob,” I decided to host a watertasting event and put him to the test.
As far as domestic brands, for more than 50 years Zephyrhills has been bottling water sourced from five springs in central and north Florida, and it tastes natural, not manipulated. It was an independent brand until 1987 when purchased by Nestlé Waters North America.
Spring water was much preferred by our tasters, but Dasani ranked high for a purified brand. Coca-Cola Co. uses reverse osmosis to purify local water for this brand. The minerals were noticeable in the water, but they were not as overt as some of the others.
Our panel was able to identify almost every bottle of water that had gone through a reverse osmosis or similar treatment by how it smelled in the glass; such as starch, static cling or an ionizer. By and large it was unappealing compared to the spring water.
Since several of the waters we tasted make claims of “perfect” pH levels and/or alkalinity, I dipped a few pH strips into them—just for fun.
The verdict is still out on the health benefits, if any, of higher alkaline waters. Some health professionals suggest that reducing acidity levels in the body cuts the risks of illness and promotes wellness. A pH of 7 is neutral and generally thought to be good. However, the pH of every organ in the body is different. Suffice to say, it’s complicated.
I’ve done similar events with wine and various spirits—yet recruiting a panel for this one wasn’t nearly as exciting or easy as that for adult beverages.
Of our top four, all were highly alkaline—except for Dasani. It took a bit of a dive. The brand called 365 Alkaline claims to have a 9.5 pH and came close. Although it had that ionized smell, our panel liked its taste and “mouth feel.”
Core and Qure waters claim to have “perfect” or “near-perfect” levels but didn’t come close in our pH test and were not popular in taste. With no scientific evidence that drinking higher alkaline waters is better for your health, the purchasing decision for many people boils down to price and flavor.
Our group was generally made of people who value flavor and unanimously agree that even though Fiji and Evian carry slightly higher price tags than all but a couple of our samples, they are worth it. And as for the self-proclaimed “water snob,” he guessed the big brands and water categories with impressive accuracy. Everyone has a talent.
Eleven bottled waters were tested, and pH strips were dipped into the water to test the alkalinity.
Water may look the same, but of course individual brands differ in taste.
Evian and Fiji tied for first place. The verdict is still out on the health benefits, if any , of higher alkaline waters such as Core and 365 Alkaline.