Move over wine tastings, water tastings are here.
Yes, you read that right. Luxury water has been doing the rounds internationally for a few years now, with water sommeliers and water-paired menus entering the food scene. In 2013, the Los Angeles Ray’s & Stark Bar and their water sommelier Martin Riese introduced a 42-page water menu from 10 different countries, and just like wine paired food with water based on acidity and salinisation. As the idea slowly enters the Indian market, is it possible that similar menus are ready to pop-up across the country?
But for that, we need to understand more about luxury waters. Australian brand Tasmanian Rain is a luxury water label that sources directly from rainfall in Tasmania, one of the most unpolluted parts of the world. Another Australian brand, Frequency H2O has water “infused with the sound frequencies of love, the moon, and light spectrums of the rainbow”. Then there’s Svalbardi sourced from untouched Artic glaciers, priced at US$166 per litre.
One of the most popular ones and relatively economical is the American Kona Deep that has water from the deep ocean next to Hawaii, priced at US$ 2.34 per litre. Of course, there is the world’s most expensive bottled water, Fillico Jewelry Water at USD 616 per litre, sourced from Kobe region of Japan called the Nunobiki water. Fillico claims this source is sought after by the world’s top tea ceremony masters and chefs, and the ostentatious bottling designs of course add to its luxe factor.
What essentially all these waters claim is purity and important nutrients that the body needs. “When one drinks regular bottled water, you get absolutely nothing,” says India’s first and only water sommelier Ganesh Iyer, who is also the director of operations, India and Indian subcontinent, for with the Finnish water brand Veen. “Regular bottled water is just a liquid leftover when all its minerals are washed away in the process of undergoing the reverse osmosis, and in doing so the water is disinfected using chlorine disinfectants. On the other hand, when one drinks a natural mineral water, you get all the natural minerals that are essential for everyday hydration.”
Iyer has been in the water industry for over 20 years, and adds that equally important are the sources that these waters are derived from, which are untouched by humans. “Mineral water is sourced from aquifers, artesian wells, and underground reservoirs. Unlike regular drinking water, natural mineral water does not undergo chemical processing. From a health perspective, nutrients like magnesium, calcium, potassium, and others are extremely beneficial in regulating your blood flow, nerve function, and strengthening bones.”
A byproduct of these attributes is a heightened dining experience. “When it comes to a fine dining, these nutrients harmoniously blend with the food and open up the flavours,” says Iyer. Luxury waters are eschew toxic plastic bottles and employ environmentally safe glass packaging.
In India, there are a few brands that are paving the way for the concept. Veen, bottled in Bhutan, has taken over restaurant tables in recent months, priced at Rs 77 / 330 ml and Rs 110 / 660 ml. Himalayan Mineral Water, by NourishCo (a joint venture between Tata Global Beverages and PepsiCo India) is sourced from the eponymous mountain range, and starts at about Rs 60 a litre. There is also Evocus by the Gujarat based A.V Organics LLP whose ‘black water’ gets its colour from its electrolytes and high alkaline content (priced at Rs 100 per litre).
Iyer predicts that within the next two years, the Indian F&B space shall see water menus and tastings. “Right now, our focus is to create awareness and education on the differences between regular bottled water and natural mineral water. Subsequently, this would move into tasting of different types of natural mineral waters based on unique characteristics, pairing with wines, spirits, and cuisines.”
While the jury’s still out on whether the minerals, purity, and health benefits of luxury water are genuinely advantageous over regular water, not to mention the cost implications, perhaps it is interesting to think about whether this is a trend you’d be willing to indulge in when it comes to your table.