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How should water taste?

Everyone knows how water shouldn’t taste, but how do we know when we’re drinking the good stuff? Perhaps we can learn the answer from the annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting, a.k.a. “The Academy Awards of Water,” in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.

For nearly thirty years, the contest judges have been awarding bronze, silver and gold medals in water. In 2018, the gold medal for Best Municipal Water in the World went to Clearbrook, British Columbia, Canada. The United States was home to the second and third place winners, as Santa Ana, California won the silver, and the city of Hamilton, Ohio, gulped up the bronze.

Arthur von Wiesenberger, the Water Master (yes, this is a thing) of the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting, says, “Water tasting is not new. It goes back to your infancy when you probably took your first taste of water–you made a subconscious awareness of whether that water tasted good. But generally, that’s about as far as water tasting has gone for the average person. It isn’t until you sit down and start tasting the waters next to each other blindly, that you realize there are differences, there are nuances of taste and aroma.”

During the 2015 event, John Lingan, a Buzzfeed reporter, tried his sipping skills as a water judge. He wrote that von Wiesenberger prepped him for the water challenge with these instructions: “Hold the glass up, take a look for any impurities, anything floating. Now bring the glass to your nose and take a deep breath — what do you smell? Maybe it’s chlorine, or plastic. Then take a sip, and keep the water in your mouth. How does it feel on the tongue? Is it harsh or soft? Fresh or bland? As you swallow it, is it refreshing — making you thirsty for more — or does it have a lingering residue?” All good questions, indeed.

In describing the gold standard taste of water, Berkeley Springs organizers simply say that water “should taste clean.” We agree. To that end, Coway has 26 water sommeliers, certified by the Korean International Sommelier Association, who help test water from the Coway Aquamega 100, an easy-to-install water purifier for your home. It filters out up to 99.9 percent of the contaminants in tap water, including lead. Now we all can raise a glass to the crisp, clean taste of water.