28 November 2023
At a meeting in April in Athens, Greece, drink experts looked carefully at the liquid in their glasses. They held them up to the light. They tasted and, sometimes, spit them out into containers. And they discussed the mineral content and purity.
But these experts were not tasting wine. Instead, they were tasting "fine water."
The experts are members of the Fine Water Society. They had come together in Athens for the yearly tasting competition. Their activity reflects the growing market for luxury water—with some bottles costing over $100 per liter.
Companies collect the so-called "fine water" from sources such as volcanic rock in Hawaii, melting ice from glaciers in Norway, and drops of mist from forests in the Amazon or the island of Tasmania. The most costly water is sold in bottles made with special glass painted with artwork.
At their meeting, Fine Water Society members learned about the environments from which the water is collected. And they compare the total dissolved solids, or TDS.
Waters with a low TDS are like rain that has not yet touched the earth. Those with high TDS — such as Vichy mineral water from hot springs in France and Catalonia, in northeastern Spain — have high mineral content that may include calcium, magnesium, potassium or sodium, among others.
A few restaurants in countries such as Spain and the United States now have menus that match food with certain kinds of fine water. Water with high TDS, for example, might go with beef. Low TDS, more like rainwater, might go with fish.
Ganesh Iyer is an Indian businessman who has worked in the beverage, or drink, industry for years. After he saw increased interest in non-alcoholic drinks, he studied to become a drink expert, also known as a water sommelier.
He is now the managing partner of Veen Waters India. The company bottles natural mineral water in the Himalayan country of Bhutan and sends it by truck to India. Veen Waters is mostly served in costly hotels and restaurants. It costs $6 a bottle, about a day's pay for an Indian laborer.
Veen Waters is exporting about 240,000 bottles of water into India each month. Iyer thinks the company has reached only about 10 percent of the possible market so far.
The story of water, however, is very different for many people in India.
The World Bank reports that India is one of the most water-stressed countries in the world. To get more water, the country has built huge plants to remove salt from seawater. Other countries, including Singapore, are collecting and cleaning up storm and wastewater to try to solve their water problems.
But these kinds of solutions are only used in some places, and the increasing need for water could lead to more disagreements.
At the same time, those in the fine water industry see their activity as part of an effort to protect the environment and its clean water.
Michael Mascha is a co-founder of the Fine Water Society. He told The Associated Press, "I think what we do is we raise the awareness of water — and if you cherish something, you're more likely to protect it."
I'm Andrew Smith
Martha Irvine wrote this story for The Associated Press. Andrew Smith adapted it for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
purity -n. clearness, being without unwanted elements or aspects
luxury -n. something expensive which is not necessary but which gives pleasure
mist -n. very small drops of water in the air, similar to fog
dissolved -adj. mixed into a liquid
menu -n. a list of food and drink at a restaurant
manage -v. to direct or be in charge of
awareness -n. knowledge of something and having it in mind
cherish -v. to highly value or appreciate