Diving into the city of water – Venice

What better place to conduct a water tasting in Italy, than in the city of water – Venice.  Spontaneously I decided to jump on a train, seek out the fine waters the city has to offer and bring tasting notes to you. On the way I hope to provide you with a glimpse of the beauty this unique city has to offer. One of my favorite cities in the world and a magical place to explore.

I will be mainly focusing on Italian waters and there are plenty to choose from. They have taken over the city as there seems to be a shortage of foreign waters. There are a few around. I  discovered a very special non-Italian water which I will include in my review.

Fiuggi

The first water I am tasting is from the town of Fuiggi in the Lazio region. It runs through volcanic deposits in the Ernici mountains. In Europe this water is classified as Ogliomineral water, with a low mineral content. As a water sommelier I am focusing on water beneficial to wellness, but this water is advertised for its health benefits, primary for supporting breaking down kidney stones. I am cautious of such health claims, but you never know.

The water has a low minerality with a TDS of 181. The water has a light , easy flowing and mellow taste, it almost calms the taste buds. Nice, straightforward still water for a relaxing, smooth experience.

Here you see the water in front of the Bridge of Sighs. It is made of marble with stone bar windows. It connects the interrogation rooms with the new prison in the Doge palace. When prisoners would be escorted over the bridge to the prison , they would take one final glimpse of beautiful Venice before disappearing into the darkness of the prison.

Aqua Panna

One of my favorite waters in Italy has to be part of my tasting. I have written about this water in many tastings and blogs before so it does not need any special introduction. From the town Villa Panna and a low TDS of 241 it comes with a crisp , light and almost lemony taste. It is interesting to compare this water to the other low minerality waters. While I found the other ones more full bodied and rounded, Aqua Panna always stands out with a lighter and crisper appearance on the taste buds. 

Here you see Aqua Panna next to St Marks Campanile, the bell tower of St. Marks Basilica. Its 98 meters high and collapsed in 1902. It was rebuild in 1912 and inaugurated exactly 1,000 year after the original foundation was laid.

San Benedetto

I have not blogged much about this water, but it is one of the most popular waters inside of Italy. Some good restaurants around the world have it on their water menu. 

The brand is located in Scorze,  near Venice. The city of Venice pumps their fountain and tab water from the same region and proudly calls it ‘Aqua Veritas’ – true water. 


San Benedetto in front of the Rialto bridge

The water comes in many bottle shapes and sizes, I tried San Benedetto in the new eco green bottle. Good to see when major water brands move forward and contribute to a better foot print in the water industry. The water is on the edge of the medium minerality category with a TDS of 264. It has a smooth taste with a robust, balanced texture , there is a certain weight in the entrance with a clean finish. A nice easy flowing taste experience.

Fonte Essentiale 

I found Fonte Essentiale a remarkable still water. It comes from the Terme di Borario, 255 km northwest from Venice. It has a very high minerality of a 2,480 TDS which is unusual for still waters. High minerality waters have a high complexity and a different taste experience than low minerality still waters. You can feel this complexity on the taste buds. On entry it feels heavy and bold, complex as the taste buds experience the layers of this wonderful tasting water. I found it soft on the edges as you drink the water with a nice and energetic finish.

Here you find Fonte Essentiale on top of the Rialto bridge , the oldest bridge spanning over the Canale Grande. It is a beautiful stone arch bridge and a major tourist attraction in Venice.

S. Pellegríno

S. Pellegrino also does not need much of an introduction as it is a well known super brand and practically available all over the world. Yet it cannot be excluded from an Italian water tasting. What makes S. Pelegríno so special are it’s bold bubbles and yet a well rounded experience in the finish. With a TDS of 841 it comes with a high minerality. I love the energy of the texture, a truly enjoyable drinking experience. It has a pleasant, citric entrance with a lively finish.

S. Pellegrino in front of masks, normally worn during Carnivale in Venice

Donat Mg

While I selected Italian waters for this tasting, I came across this sparkling water from Slovakia, Donat Mg. With a TDS of 13,197 it is off the chart in terms of minerality so I had to experience it and create some tasting notes for you. The minerals contained in this water are several grams (1 g of Magnesium, 1.6 g of sodium, 2.1 g of sulfate) instead of the milligrams normal in waters. I know my taste buds are in for a stormy tasting experience. As expected the taste is quite complex with a bold set of bubbles. Just opening the bottle feels like unleashing a monster.

A surprising mellow entrance is followed by several waves of mineral tastes, in a pleasant way. At the finish you almost feel that the water saved the best for last and you experience a boost of minerals to be remembered. The water brand advertises the water good for digestion (scientifically proven in a study in Berlin). You almost get an Alka Seltzer experience and I can imagine it to be a good remedy for hangovers. If you are in for a special meal, a good water for complex flavors, maybe even a good steak.

Guglie Bridge –
Historic footbridge across the Cannaregio Canal, with a carved balustrade & decorative gargoyles.

There a hundreds and hundreds of wonderful spring and mineral waters in Italy, so we only scratched the surface of the Italian water portfolio. Hope you enjoyed the journey to Venice and  let me know if you want me to review more of the Italian or a different water selection.

Stay thirsty!

Mindful Water. Easy ways to taste your water

In this blog I want to examine how water can help us to be more mindful and useful pointers how to best experience and taste your water.

Mindfulness has become one of the most important ways you can improve your life. It’s all about living in the moment, appreciating the now and being able to better control your thoughts. I will share a story with you on how mindfulness has saved my life during a meeting later.

The beauty of mindfulness is that a few minutes every day will have a tremendous impact on your daily life.

Over the past years, mindfulness has allowed me to take charge of my habits and bring more balance to my emotional state. I am using the app Calm , but there are many other options out there such as headspace or insight timer.

You might ask yourself now: but what has water to do with mindfulness?

Most people take water for granted. They sip water here and there, mostly when they feel thirsty or light headed. Many associate water with a meal they take. In most restaurants, a waiter will bring a glass of water as quietly as possible or open up a bottle of water and we sip almost subconsciously as we talk to others.

Hydrate

Being mindful about water can change your wellbeing and your happiness tremendously. Our body is made up of 70 percent water. The better we are hydrated, the better our organs will function. When we get the signal that we are thirsty it is often too late. Our organs do not function properly anymore and we rush to take a sip. Most of us are accustomed to the fact that water is all around us and that you just have to open up the tap to take a sip.

Did you know that by drinking water regularly you can lose up to 10 pounds of weight per year? Just by taking a few sips of water every day.

The quality of the water you are drinking is important. Tap water often contains chemicals to keep the treated municipal water safe and it often does not include enough minerals which your body needs daily.

Spring water on the other hand contains essential minerals, is free of chemicals and comes with a great taste. Drinking water does not only have to be a life saving automatic experience, it can be an enjoyable event.

In order to appreciate the taste, you need to be mindful of how you experience the water. Drinking water can be an experience to appreciate the moment and to be grateful for what we have. It is sometimes the simple things which can help us to get into a better mood and appreciate our daily life.

Let me give you a crash course in tasting. You can break down the experience into several components and you can be mindful of each step.

While your taste buds will be doing the heavy lifting, it helps to enhance the experience to utilize your other senses.

The look

Have a look at the glass, swirl the water around a bit. You can even smell the water, although in most cases the water will be odorless or will have a hint of sweetness. Have a look at the bottle. In great restaurants the wait staff can give you a bit more background on where the water is coming from and what makes it so unique. Knowing what to look for will help your taste buds later on. For sparkling water you can see the motion in the glass: are the bubbles fine or heavy? Do you see them rising to the top quickly or slowly. The intensity of the sparkle will give you an indication on how you might experience your tasting.

12504778 – fresh clean water splash in blue.

The initial sip

The initial sip: When the water enters the mouth, you will have an initial reaction to the water. Does it feels soft or heavy? Do you experience the energy of the bubbles? Does it feel elegant or bold? This can be sometimes a critical moment to decide if you like a water or not.

The taste

Now your taste buds go to work. Each of us experiences taste differently. It depends on the composition of our taste buds and how well we are tuned into the experience. It will also depend on our likes, if we like sparkling or still water, if we have a preference for the intensity or if we like a certain level of acidity. These decisions are made in fractions of a second and feel more like a ‘gut’ feeling. Being mindful and ask yourself: how does this water taste? What makes it special? Do I like it or not?

I like to add certain terms when I describe water.  To me there are several categories:

  • The energy feel: does the water feel vibrant or quiet? When the water dances with my taste buds, is it a slow, romantic dance or a quick, passionate, vibrant dance?
  • The flavors: Can I sense a bit of salt? Do I feel a bit of acidity? Maybe like a lemon? Like a piece of fruit?
  • The texture: Is the water velvety or silky? Does it feel complex?
  • Reflection: Does the water remind me of anything? Granite? Chalk? Silk?

Often a taste will link with a memory. It could be a vacation trip we had to a river or a water fall. It might relate to our grandma’s farm and the spring in the back yard. Maybe a trip to a lake and a taste we had drinking the water on a hiking trip from a clean spring. These memories will try to link to the taste experience you are having right now.

I invite you next time you take a sip of spring or mineral water to be mindful of these categories and find a term that would work for you to describe the water. If you mention these terms to your wait staff they will be able to find you a water that matches the taste and you will enjoy the experience more. Water choices in a restaurant should be much more then just the question : Still or Sparkling?

Part of my job as a sommelier is to find good descriptions of taste, so that people can connect with the experience. It’s not easy as we all have a different understanding of taste. In the beverage industry these descriptions have to be appetizing and inviting so that you would be happy to try it out.

Drinking the water

And finally, drinking the water. When your water makes the way down your throat, it will be a unique experience for you. You might like it or not. This last stage is called the finish and in some cases you will experience an after taste. That does not have to be a bad experience. In some cases you like the experience so much that you will remember the water and would buy it in the future again because of it.

Being mindful

Most of us do not spend much time thinking of this in stages, but being mindful about a simple thing as experiencing a sip of water can open up a whole new world. The saying “ water tastes like water” is outcome of thinking when we do not describe or pay attention to the taste of water. Everything has a taste and everything leaves an impression , you just have to be mindful about it. This is similar to what I am experience in the tea industry. It is just like flying economy and business class. Once you have flown business class you do not want to go back. When we experience a certain taste in water we accept this as normal , as the status quo, but once we have the opportunity to taste something amazing , it will open up a new avenue for us and new possibilities to enhance the quality of life. And why not try to enhance our life with an affordable piece of luxury, a fine water which can add a bit of positivity to our day. Knowing how to taste a water and what to look for, will earn you street (or water) credit with your family and friends.

When I was in a workshop in Rome, during one of the presentations I started to get very bored as the presenter was very dry. I remembered my mindfulness practices and spotted a bottle of Aqua Panna in front of me. I started to think about the qualities of the water, the tastes and the history of this water. These thoughts got me trough the presentation and I took a sip of the water and was saved. You can read my reflections in one of my previous blogs.

Stay Thirsty!

Would You Drink Anti-Aging Tomato Tea?

I rarely review teas on this blog (would you like to see more of this? Send me a comment.)

When I picked up this tea, I had to share my thoughts with you as it was truly a unique experience. Say hello to TOMATINO from the Gryphon Tea Company!

My first reaction was similar to yours – WHAT?

A Tomato tea? Who would ever drink this? The sommelier in me however became curious. If they are selling it, it must be drinkable. At least I can warn people to stay away from this brew. And I have a lot of respect for Gryphon for developing excellent teas. Gryphon is known for excellent high quality teas and was founded in Singapore in 2006 linked to a family tea importer almost 100 years ago.

So I gave it a try and boy was I surprised. Let me first tell you a bit about the composition of this tea. It is actually not a tea but an infusion, a tisane. In the tea industry normally only if the plant camellia sinensis is included, it can be called a tea, otherwise it is an infusion or tisane. The tea industry is relaxed about this and you will find many “teas’ which do not really have any tea plant inside.

Tomatino

The base for this infusion is Organic South African bush tea, rooibos (Afrikaans for red bush). I love this plant, often used similar to traditional tea and has a hibiscus sweet like taste. The rooibos is then blended with organic honey bush, apple, tomato, carrot, beetroot, cinnamon and orange peel, creating its blend no. 268. Quite a complex blend with many different flavors and textures. The mastery of a good blend is to find the right mix of ingredients based on how their taste will diffuse into the water, creating the final drink. Some ingredients only need very little to explode with taste into the water and some might need a little more. All have to work together at a given time to reach the brewing finish line at the same time. The tea company recommends to use 200 ml of  a less then boiling water for one sachet for about 5-6 minutes.

Based on its ingredients the blend is naturally caffeine free.

Different tastes can create a unique experience to our taste palette. The thought of putting a tomato into hot water and digesting the stew, no matter how healthy it would be is an appalling thought. We are primed to believe that tea blends will come with fruits and herbs to create a good taste. But vegetables? Not so much.

The tea comes in a sachet, already a plus for me. A sachet is a more liberating loose tea bag, allowing the tea to fully unfold when brewed. It is intended for high-quality loose-leaf teas to extract their full flavor as intended during the brewing process.

Tea water

A note on water to be used: a good water would have:

  • a low TDS – Total Solids Dissolved (preferably less than 50 – you will find the number on the water label, sometimes called – total minerals diffused); and
  • a ph level of about 7, sometimes a little higher is fine.

Sometimes you will find waters different to the criteria but they seem to be working well with tea. It there is interest, I can put together a list of good tea waters from my experience.

The Tomato Taste

Once you overcome your initial reservation about trying a vegetable tea and you made the tea according to instructions, a wonderful sweet smell will greet you. The first sip is amazing as you are crossing the line between your perception and the feedback from your taste buds that something amazing is happening. You can taste tomato and carrot but you will find a gentle balance from the sweetness of the rooibos. The beetroot, the apple, cinnamon and orange peel add a herbal and fruity layer to bring the composition together. In addition to the vegetable taste, you will get a crisp citrus counterbalance to make it a pleasant overall experience. While the tomato taste will be noticeable at the beginning, the finish will bring a burst of additional fruit and spice flavors. Quite a treat for your taste buds. It brings together savory and sweet taste dimensions. In addition to the taste and smell experience, I love the color in the cup. It is a perfect blend of tomato meets carrot, rooibos and orange.

Tomatino is a great tisane to enjoy with food. It would go best with baked or grilled fish with a tomato and red pepper puree. I would also recommend a water with a medium TDS (250 – 800) to compliment your food and tea.

Tomatino, besides a great taste, will come with a huge amount of wellness benefits. The tomato is also labeled the elixir of youth for its anti-aging effects. It is filled with antioxidants and super fruits, so you will get additional mineral and vitamin benefits.

Taste thoughts

Tomatino is a great example of blending teas to achieve new taste experiences. We all are unique individuals and we all have our different perspectives on what tastes good and what does not. We experience our life journey and make little mental notes on what fruits and vegetables we like and what we better stay away from. As a sommelier it is my privilege to find teas and waters which match your taste and give you the best experience on what matches best your taste experience. Sometimes it is also my pleasure to recommend something new to you, something that might change your mind or that makes you experience a drink that might surprise you. In the case of Tomatino I can promise you that you will experience something which based on the title and the ingredients you might have not expected.

And this is the beauty of life. We never know what to experience next and it might be a wonderful surprise that expands our horizon. You might be able to find a new favorite. The best is yet to come.

Stay thirsty!

Water is a Human Right

Whoever you are, wherever you are, water is your human right

As we marked World Water Day last week I would like to highlight the importance of access to clean water around the world.

This year’s theme of World Water Day has been “Leave no one behind – clean access for everybody by 2030”.

The heartbreaking reality

Here are some of the realities we are facing in today’s world:

  • 2.1 billion people live without safe water at home.
  • One in four primary schools have no drinking water service, with pupils using unprotected sources or going thirsty.
  • More than 700 children under five years of age die every day from diarrhea linked to unsafe water and poor sanitation.
  • Globally, 80% of the people who have to use unsafe and unprotected water sources live in rural areas.
  • Over 800 women die every day from complications in pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Around 159 million people collect their drinking water from surface water, such as ponds and streams.
  • Around 4 billion people – nearly two-thirds of the world’s population – experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year.
  • 700 million people worldwide could be displaced by intense water scarcity by 2030.

Water in Myanmar

As a United Nations staff member in Myanmar I can see the challenges of access to clean water every day. Since I moved here, I have been faced with the reality of having to use water from bottles and filters as the tap water cannot be used, not even for brushing teeth. While I am in the fortunate position of being able to buy clean water for my family, many people in Myanmar do not have that ability due to their limited income.

Inle Lake

I was glad to see that Myanmar has been chosen as a backdrop in the official World Water Day poster. Inle Lake is located in Shan State in the north of the country, a complex area with a long history and inspiring sights. The fisherman you see in the poster has a unique way of peddling on the lake, wrapping his leg around the pole to steer the boat. They also use the traps you see to hunt for fish. To me Inle lake as been an inspiring region were tradition and innovation is coming together. You can see amazing projects where renewable and sustainable energy meets traditional Myanmar and Shan state culture.

It is also a reminder of how precious these water reservoirs are. They provide livelihood to thousands of people.

Water is essential

Since we all need water to survive, people are forced to drink the tap water, resulting in many people becoming sick and even dying from water born diseases. People in the developed world do not think much about water as it is readily available around us. Once something becomes scares it will rise as a priority and gain our attention. We do not see water as a critical element for survival. In most developed cities, water is available as tap water or can be drank from clean fountains as I have experienced in Rome, Italy.

Living in Myanmar made me realize how important clean water is for our survival and wellness. Since water is clear and odorless there is a lot of trust we need to exercise when drinking water that it will be good for us and safe to drink.  

We often rely on known water brands to be certain that the water will be safe and clean for us to drink.

The fine water industry

The fine water industry takes this important step forward. Not only do premium brands provide clean and safe water to drink, they also ensure that minerals are available in their waters which will promote wellness in our lives. You will find a description of the mineral content on the water bottle label. The TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) will give you s sense on the overall mineral level in that particular water.

We are constantly in search of improving ourselves and performing at our highest level and with water we have an easy-to-implement product right in front of our noses.

Take a moment to think about the state of our planet when it comes to water and consider what action you can take to improve the current state.

Stay Thirsty!

A Different Kind of Sommelier

When I heard about Marc Almert being voted the best Sommelier in the world by ASI (Association de la Sommellerie Internationale), I was first of all happy. Happy, that a fellow German has won this title and that there is hope (half-jokingly), that my German taste buds have some genetic advantage in the world of tasting.

Once the happiness settled in and I congratulated Marc, one of my old questions came back to me: Why is it always wine that is associated with the word Sommelier? As a tea and water sommelier, how do I compare?

It also brings back a point I was advocating for over the past years, that we sommeliers would benefit from collaborating. Let me first be clear for the people which already have started to type comments: in Sommelier terms, wine will always play a major role, there is no question that wine plays a dominant role when it comes to fine beverages in the restaurant world.

But let us ponder an additional question for one moment: how can sommeliers, wine, water, tea or even olive oil or chocolate sommeliers benefit from collaborating with each other? Can the customer experience be enhanced by having a heightened experience as a product from Sommeliers getting along with each other?

Sommeliers from different areas do not need to be in competition with each other. I do not think there needs to be a conversation on which field produces the best sommelier. There is no need to look up or down, as respect for each other’s accomplishments will all move us in the right direction. Each specialist, who is passionate about his or her area can contribute to the table experience and add value to what ultimately the customer will benefit from.

@MartinRiese has successfully demonstrated that water sommeliers add significant value and bring water forward as a significant revenue center for the restaurant. Sommeliers like Martin make water entertaining and important for people to notice. The fine water industry is at the beginning of a new beverage revolution where the conversation on fine water will enter front and center.

How about that certificate?

I agree, that a 4-day summer course, where you are presented with a “Sommelier” certificate will not make you an expert. A one-year Tea Sommelier course which brings you to the ability blind taste tea and determine the year and even the tea plantation does. A hands on, intensive course over 3 months with the fine water academy and the expert guidance from Martin Riese and Michael Masha certainly will.

I remember the summers when my family went off to the beach to relax and I would stay for 8 hours in the kitchen to taste and describe different teas. I remember long weekends of water tastings to develop a palette for water flavors and textures. Tasting is an essential skill for sommeliers and it takes a long time to develop enough confidence to develop a good skill level. Certified Sommeliers in the tea and water industry with credible institutions are passionate individuals who want to make a difference in the world and lead the way to a higher level of spirit and sophistication in their industry.

What is a Sommelier?

If you google ‘Sommelier’ most likely the words ‘Wine waiter’ or ‘Wine steward’ will pop up on the top of the list. Ads for sophisticated wine schools and expensive wine classes will be offered. Other beverages will not appear until far, far down the list and rarely in the context of Sommelier.

Sommelier history

King Philippe V of France first recognized the job of sommelier as a formal profession in the fourteenth century when a ‘sommelier’ was a court official charged with the transportation of supplies. The word came from the Middle French – a ‘saumalier’ was a pack animal driver, derived from the word ‘sauma,’ referring to either the pack animal or the packsaddle. In King Phillipe’s day, the job of sommelier involved keeping the provisions of the royal house well-stocked. It also involved taking nibbles of perishable foods and sips of perishable wines to ensure that they were still edible and had not been poisoned. A wise sommelier would need to take careful stock of the popularity of the nobleman or monarch he chose to serve if he wished to preserve his health!

The modern version of a Sommelier

As a dual Tea and Water Sommelier, certified by the World Tea Academy and the Fine Water Academy, I am enjoying my ability to learn and educate in two different yet equally passionate industries. I made it my mission to be a bridge ambassador, who can connect the world of tea and water and identify opportunities for the hospitality industry. I am working with brand owners to develop strategies and ways to get the public more excited and more educated about incredible products the industry has to offer.

Everybody has a different preference and a different flavor and taste profile. Sommeliers taste hundreds of different products to be able to recommend an option to a customer which they would enjoy. Some people might like sparkling water, some might like a still water, some a green tea and some an oolong tea. We all have a different set of taste buds with which we are enjoying the world and it is the opportunity of sommeliers to find that magic match. Sommeliers can spark interest and highlight the benefits of high-quality products to enhance the customer experience.  

A night to remember

I had a wonderful collaboration experience in November 2018. During a networking event for my current job, I met the Olive Oil Sommelier Benedetta in Italy, who conducted an Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Tasting. I learned new things and most of all I could sense her passion to give people more information about Olive Oil and Vinegar, in order for them to improve their choices and their experience selecting the right oil in the future.

For me that is the essential point: A sommelier has the ability to spark an inspiration in people and show them a side of a beverage they have not seen before and what will make their experience better and more enjoyable.

Each island of the beverage industry produces experts who have a passion and developed a way of presenting their knowledge to people who do not think about beverages in such an extensive way.

As a water and tea sommelier I have the good fortune to be certified in two wonderful industries. What connects these industries is the passion to make their beverage more visible and more exiting to the public.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that Sommeliers from different industries should collaborate more and exchanging perspectives and ideas that will benefit us all. I would love to see a cross industry network of Sommeliers to present their ideas to each other.

I am looking forward to the Fine Water Summit in Stockholm in a few weeks where I will talk about the bridge between Water and Tea and the opportunities for both industries. I am looking forward to exchange ideas with the best of the best in the fine water industry in looking towards new trends for the future.

Looking forward to sharing my insights from the summit here on this blog.

Until then, Stay thirsty!

How to Easily Brew the Perfect Cup of Tea

Everybody has their own preference. Some like tea bags, some like high quality loose leaf tea, some are just somewhere in between. It is not up to me to convert you or decide for you what you find the best. My goal is to make you a little bit more curious and provide you with options for your tea journey.

The perfect cup of tea is the one you like the most. It is the one that hits the spot and has the right taste. The perfect cup will bring joy and a sense of gratification to your day. What could be better than to find an oasis of happiness in the middle of a stressful day. I talked a lot about taste in recent posts and tasting right takes a lot of practice. Bringing a little bit of mindfulness in the way you are making decisions when making your cup of tea can go a long way and ultimately lead to better tea enjoyment in the process.

The key components for the right cup of tea are:

1. The right water

2. A high quality loose leaf tea

3. The right brewing temperature

4. The right brewing time.

You can take this further to the top by selecting special brewing vehicles and a wonderful cup to enjoy the tea in, but I am trying to focus on the essentials. The key is that you create an experience that suits you best and connects with what you like. There is no perfect one-size-fits-all solution.

1. The right water

The quality of water is often overlooked. As a water sommelier this is one of my most important areas of education and also one of the most fascinating. You do not have to be a water sommelier to make a good cup of tea, but if you want to expand on your essential knowledge, I can highly recommend a Fine Water 101 course with The Fine Water Academy to learn the basics.

The best tea water has a ph level (check the label on the bottle) of around 7, and a super low TDS (Total Dissolved Solids), best below 50. (As long it is in the neighborhood of these numbers, you can select a water you like the best. I believe that selecting a wonderful water will only further add to the tea experience by adding a little piece of affordable luxury and will complement the high-quality tea. Remember, 95% of tea is water and a fine water will make such a big difference.

2. A high quality loose leaf tea

I often get the comment: “But this kind of tea is more expensive. Is it worth it?” Totally. The beauty of loose leaf tea is that you can re-steep the same leaves, while with a standard tea bag, you can normally only use once. If convenience is a priority, buy some empty loose leaf tea bags or pyramid teas. Try to research where the tea is coming from, which country, even which state or province. Try to learn more about the characteristics, what is the best way of brewing it, what are the intended flavors or aromas. Most high quality loose leaf tea is produced by experienced tea masters and they turn a leaf into a piece of art and into a wonderful taste.

Certainly there are limits and it’s the same with water or wine. There is the terroir and the conditions that will influence the characteristics of the tea leaf. The soil and the water running trough the ground will have an impact on the growth of the tea plant. A tea plant in the soil of China will be completely different than a tea in the soil of India. The beauty is that you have six types of tea to choose from and thousands of different kinds of tea. Even if you would drink a different tea every day for the rest of your life, you would not be able to experience them all. So pick something you like. If you give me a preferred taste you like, I can guide you in the right direction to fast track your search.

3. The right brewing temperature

Most teas are pretty forgiving. You can boil the water and pour it over the tea leaf and you get a decent cup of tea. Some high quality loose leaf teas are not so forgiving. Use the wrong temperature and the tea will turn bitter or weak. So using the right temperature is essential and the below picture can guide you in the right direction. You do not need a thermometer. Just use the fisheye method to ‘eye ball’ the right temperature. When you see bubbles on the bottom of the pot, it will tell you about the temperature of the water. Tiny bubbles (the size of shrimp eyes) will be a water temperature of about 160F, while the size of fish eyes will be about 180F).

4. The right brewing time

If you brew some teas too long, they become too bitter. Brew it for too short an amount of time and they become too weak. In the picture below you can see the right combination for a tea type. You might have to experiment a little bit to find just the right spot for your tastes.

Conclusion

Being mindful of these components will result in a better cup of tea, one that you never imagined. It is like flying business class for the first time and never wanting to go back to economy. Life is full of obstacles and challenges. Treat yourself to a nice cup of tea and great a little piece of happiness to brighten your day. Choose a favorite cup or mug to drink the tea to further elevate your experience.

If you know the background of the water you are brewing the tea in, the culture and terroir of the tea leaf, brew it at the right temperature and at the right time, I guarantee you that you will create something magical, something special to be remembered. And you can use this knowledge to bring joy to your friends and family. Nothing creates happiness more than a wonderfully brewed cup of tea, at least for me.

Stay Thirsty!

Energize Yourself to Make Your Day More Productive

Over the past year I spent a lot of time implementing habit loops, to make my days more productive and ensure I can get the best results out of my time. I love the concept of ‘Return on Energy’, asking myself the question: with a minute (or an hour or day) spent, what did I got out of it? How has this energy spent on this minute helped my life? Has it been able to grow me as a person? Of course there will be minutes you perceive as ‘boring’ or ‘normal’ but it will be about your perspective on how you value your time and what you decide to do with it.

In this blog post I will give you powerful tips to implement small hacks to create positive habit loops that will help to advance your life. I sorted them by time of day, so you can decide what best fits into your daily routine. Hydration is tricky. We normally drink water when we get thirsty. When your brain receives the ‘thirsty’ signal it is normally too late, your organs have already started to struggle to function optimally. The key in hydration is to drink water throughout the day to keep the engine and your systems running smoothly. Most people underestimate this. If you hydrate constantly, good for you and you are ahead of the game.

Your body is made from 70% water. Give it the attention it needs.

Wake up

Our normal instinct is to get up and kick start the brain with caffeine, either a coffee or a tea. What our body needs most first thing in the morning is a glass of water to replenish the liquid lost during the night. With every breath we are exhaling tiny droplets of water. By the end of a good night’s sleep, you will have exhaled a cup of water! That first glass in the morning will jump start your organs and will prepare the metabolism to be ready for breakfast.

Add a few drops of lemon juice which will give you a good initial boost of Vitamin C in the morning. If you have water with a high TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) available, go for it. Minerals will help your body to get started. If you only have tap water within reach, add a little salt to it to help your body with minerals. The key will be to develop a daily routine to help your body to become stronger and healthier.

Breakfast

Make it a habit to have a glass of water with your tea (or coffee) for breakfast. While cups of coffee and tea will help with your daily liquid intake, it is the caffeine which will dehydrate you. A nice glass of water with breakfast will help you to hydrate better and assist your body with digesting the food. You can brighten your day by adding a nice brand of fine water from an interesting part of the world. When you eat with your family this could be a good conversation starter and a way to learn something new.

Morning

Hydration does not stop after breakfast. As you jump into your busy day, water can become your companion. I always carry a water bottle with me and sip once in a while and it gives me a good feeling. I feel that despite the challenges I am facing that day, I continue to invest into my body and support my wellness. In addition, I love to have a cup of tea by my side and I always take a moment to appreciate the taste of the tea I have picked for myself that moment.

We are working together with people, we are working towards larger projects, but it is important not to forget about investing in yourself constantly. The better you become, the more productive you will be. Always remember the safety instruction on an airplane. First put the oxygen mask onto yourself and then you can help your loved ones and those you travel with.

Lunch

Make every day special. The more you can mix things up and create variety the better and happier you will be. We all face challenges and we all are surrounded by things we cannot control, but focus on the things you can control. When you have lunch, be curious and select a new brand of water you have not tried yet. Focus on the taste. How does it compare to the water you normally drink? It will add a new little taste experience and it will enhance your day.

Afternoon

My energy normally drops in the afternoon. That’s where I get my secret weapon out – a strong black tea. I have been trying this habit for a few weeks now and it works like magic. The strong tea will bring back my needed energy more gradually and it will help me to focus and accomplish my remaining tasks for the day.

Evening

Dinner will be an opportunity to relax and unwind from a busy day. Adding a nice fine water rather then the dull glass from the tap will add a little pleasure, a little piece of luxury, to celebrate your accomplishments of the day. Try a nice sparkling water, which will also have the benefit to replenish your minerals, aid with your digestion and will get you ready for the night.

Night

Have a water near your bedside. This way if you get thirsty in the middle of the night , you can replenish your fluids quickly. Pick a water with a medium to high TDS to add a bit of minerals and help your body in the middle of the night. As you fall asleep and recover from a busy day, remember that water and tea have been there to boost your day a little bit and make it more pleasurable.

I hope these little reflections and hacks got you thinking about how you can improve your day. We certainly do not focus on water or tea the whole day and surely I am thinking about this way more then you need, but I am here to help.

Feel free to reach out to me if you need ideas for specific brands and where to get them. That’s what we sommeliers are for, to give you ideas which match your taste. With hundreds and hundreds of amazing brands, it’s no easy task, but somebody’s got to do it.

Stay thirsty!

The Overlooked Secret of Healthy Minerals in Your Water

We all drink water to hydrate. Many think that as long as the water is clean and comes from a safe source, it will be fine for us. We spend a lot of time thinking about what kind of foods we are eating and have developed different tastes and preferences. However we seem to treat water as more of an afterthought.

I would like to shed some light on the magic inside of water. Each kind of water is different. The mineral content in spring and mineral waters can vary from town to town and from brand to brand. What turns me off to tap water, even though it is safe to drink, is that it does not contain enough minerals. It also contains other chemicals that are not normally found in nature. Let me equip you with the basics of minerals in water so next time you choose a water in the store you can make a better choice. I will also tell you about minerals you should avoid.

During my water tastings I have been able to get people to think more about what is in their water and to look at the water label. The European label will be a bit more descriptive compared to an American one, but a lot of mineral data can be obtained online.

The Basics

The basic minerals most waters have in common are Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium,  Bicorbonate and Silica. Most waters will have a combination of them. The amount depends on the journey the water took – from when it was rain, to the source. The overall mineral content is measured

Calcium (Ca++)

Calcium is good for your bones. Your body needs lots of it every day. It is also good for your teeth and cell membranes, for the transmission of nerve and muscle impulses and it also helps prevent blood clots. Normally the number on the label will be less then 100 mg/l but it’s good if you find a brand which has a higher amount.

A glass of clean mineral water in a woman’s hands. Concept of environment protection, healthy drink.

Magnesium (Mg++)

This mineral is a big part of your cells. It is needed for the regulation of muscle contractions and the transmission of nerve impulses. It also activates energy-producing enzymes. Your bones need magnesium, as it helps to expand blood vessels which lessens the risk of heart attacks. Many deficiencies such as nervousness, lack of concentration, dizziness, headaches and migraines come from not having enough magnesium in your body.  A normal brand will have about 20 mg/l.

The health importance of Magnesium

Sodium (Na+)

Plain old Salt. It’s interesting that salt water has a TDS of 35,000 and it is not recommended to drink salt water as it will dehydrate your body. While many foods have plenty of salt in them, we do not have to worry about not having enough salt. The opposite is the true. Most water brands will have 10 mg/l but some amazing brands like Vichy Catalan can have over 1,200 mg/l.

Potassium  (K+)

Our body needs about 2 – 4 grams per day. The pressure of water between cells is regulated by potassium. It plays a special role in muscle contraction and our heartbeats. A potassium deficiency can weaken skeletal muscle and make smooth muscles tired. Normally you will find 5 mg/L of potassium in most brands.

11298042 – potassium form periodic table of elements – 3d made

Bicarbonate (HCO3-)

This mineral is essential for maintaining the body’s ph balance. It is also found in your stomach. Typically you will find 50 – 200 mg/l in most water brands. It neutralizes lactic acid generated by physical activity.

Glass of water with baking soda on white background

Silica (SiO2)

Most adults need between 20 – 30 mg daily. It reduces the risk of heart disease and prevents osteoporosis. It also helps to repair tissue by serving as an antioxidant. Normally you will find 20 mg/L. Some waters like Fiji and Healis will have a much higher content, which will give it a distinctive taste.

Nitrates

This is one mineral you do not want to see in your water. In the water industry, the level of Nitrates will give you an indication of the environment the water source is in. Water with no nitrates is considered superior and is a good one to go for. Water with 7 – 10mg is still acceptable, while the total amount should not exceed 50 mg/l.

Nitrate free food label outline icon. linear style sign for mobile concept and web design. Line vector icon. No chemicals symbol, logo illustration. Pixel perfect vector graphics

Go and explore

With a basic understanding of the main minerals in water, now go out and explore new waters! Waters with a high TDS will have a combination of these minerals (hopefully minus the nitrates) and will give the water a distinctive taste and wellness benefits for your body. As you go through your day, it is good to have a partner with you that can help you to support your body. Keep sipping water throughout the day!

Stay thirsty…

Following Footsteps ….Selecting fine waters in Berlin

Inspired by @MartinRiese’s visit to the KaDeWe department store in Berlin, I decided to give it a try. I thought that for sure I would be met by a larger variety then I would find in Myanmar.

I took the opportunity to create tasting notes about waters I have never experienced. Germany is a great country to try new waters with hundreds and hundreds of different springs. Trying water will expand your palette and give a greater understanding on the diversity of water brands.

In this blog post I would like to give you further tips on what to look for when selecting that special bottle of water, what are great finds and what are some of the risks when being faced with new, unknown waters. You also find will come across bad finds which are not so much fine waters, but rather more like fake news.

Below is a selection of waters you can find in one of the largest department stores in Berlin, the ‘Kaufhaus des Westens’ – the department store of the West, one of Berlin’s most luxurious malls. Up on the 6th floor is the fabled Food and Drink section and the water area did not disappoint me. Here are some of my finds:

Evian  – Chiara Ferragni Limited Edition (France)

Evian is a water known all over the world. You can can get it in almost every fine restaurant around the world. What makes this brand special is that it has become more then just a water, but a way of life. I always enjoy seeing Evian travel waters at the airport with different city themed water bottles.

At KaDeWe I found a wonderful glass bottle designed by Chiara Ferragni, the famous fashion icon from Italy. It is a great example to take a well known water (you can’t go wrong with the taste) and add a wonderful visual experience to your dinner table. For sure it will be catching the eyes of your dinner guests and you can present a wonderful story as part of your dinner experience. A water does not have to be a glass of water but can also come with a story.

Sonnenstein – Hexagonal Primary water (Germany)

This water is a good example that a brand’s story sometimes can go too far or simply is wrong. Some water brands are eager to enter the fine water market and will present you with a story which sounds good. Sonnenstein, which comes in a pretty and elegant water bottle, claims to be a hexagonal water, where the molecules are aligned to provide extra health benefits.

Be cautious when a water brand tries to present health benefits, because mostly they are not true. Minerals in water will provide you benefits but be cautious if specific health claims are listed. Water is for wellness, hydration and enjoyment. The brand will present you a ‘scientific’ explanation and will charge a premium for their health claims, which are almost always unfounded. Same goes for Alkanine water which is not much more than a marketing scam.

Healsi (Portugal)

When I explored the waters at KaDeWe this one popped out right away. The water comes in three different colors; white, blue and pink in an amazing, diamond shaped bottle.

The water has a low TDS of 189 but interestingly has a high silica content. We mostly know silica from Fiji water and it gives water a smooth and elegant taste people like so much. Healsi is another good example.

The water has a smooth and soft mouthfeel with a very round taste. I love these waters which are pleasant to drink and easy to remember.

Nevas Water Cuveé (Germany)

When I first noticed that bottle in the store, I thought a champagne bottle had been misplaced on the shelf. Nevas Water brands itself as a luxury table water as a Cuvee. For me, it’s a great example that it does not always have to be a fancy champagne for a special occasion. Nevas would be perfect for any special occasion.

When you pour Nevas into a glass you instantly notice the strong and bold bubbles like you would see in a Perrier or in a Gerolsteiner sparkling water. The taste is impressive. The intensity of the bubbles creates an energetic dance around the tongue. I loved the vibrancy and the uplifting feeling during the tasting, which is quite unique. It’s a pricey but worthwhile water for a special occasion.

Vai Wai (Fiji)

We mostly know water from Fiji as ‘Fiji Water’. While it is widely available around the world as a mega brand and very popular, it is only one of the waters available in Fiji. I was curious to try another brand and to see how it matches up to the well known Fiji water. My first impression was the wonderful bottle and I was pleased to learn that the bottle is biodegradable.

Vai Wai has a crisp and initial impression. I found it special as it has an elevating high note at the finish. It quickly wraps around the tongue leading to a pleasant finish.  

I hope these water selections have inspired you to visit a water section in a store nearby and select a water for your next dinner or occasion with friends and family. There is so much to explore and to be gained by learning more about these fascinating waters.

Stay thirsty!

5 quick changes before Valentines Day that will make your life better

The internet is full of articles about making your life stronger and better. Companies will try to sell you stuff which you don’t need or will promise you a short cut to an easier life. We are disappointed when they do not live up to their promise and sink further into despair.

The following five tips are from my own life, they are proven and have done amazing things for me. And most importantly they will not cost you a fortune, some of them are even free, and will improve your live in significant and long lasting ways. We are looking for big changes but sometimes the best improvements are right under our nose.

Hydration

The game changer. One of the areas that will have the biggest impact on your life. Chances are that you drink water once you are thirsty or you have a beverage with your meal. You don’t think about water on a constant basis, even though you consist of 70% water. We focus on so many things in our life but we ignore the most important aspect of our body because we believe it is working and does not need much attention.  Many meetings and places I go to, I am the only one carrying around a water bottle with me. If you are one of the few people who bring (hopefully reusable) water bottle, you are ahead of the game. Just by sipping water through the day you support your body and your brain in many functions, you provide the oil for your engine. Try the 8 x 8 rule, 8 glasses of 8z per day, easy to remember. After a few weeks of sipping water on a constant basis, you will not even notice it anymore, sip on autopilot and your body will be up and running.

While many people reach for the faucet in the morning, you can kick start your day in a much better way.  Drink a glass of fine mineral water first thing in the morning and you tell your day that you mean business. Your body will receive a jump start portion of minerals to fire up all vitals. Your organs and metabolism will thank you. You can even add a spritz of lemon to the water for an extra boost of vitamin C.

Fine Water at Dinner

The conversationalist. With most people using water from the tab, using water for dinner becomes uninspiring, dull and boring. By having an interesting, exotic and unique mineral water at your dinner table will enhance your experience, you can add something special to your evening at small cost. We will have the opportunity to talk about where the water comes from with our family, dream about an exotic location at a rain forest or mountain area. We will experience a unique taste from a different part of the world. Life is all about special moments and creating unique experiences, even during a normal, routine work day. The more you can enhance your normal day and make it special, the more value the day will have to you and your mood will increase. Life for me is to create a growing mosaic of meaningful moments.

With valentines day around the corner, you can make your dinner special by ordering a wonderful bottle of fine still or sparkling water along side your food. Impress your date with stories about where the water came from, the romantic environment of a rain forest or mountain stream. Water is life and it is good sometimes to dream.

Fine Water Tea

The enhancer. Most people make their tea with tab water. You work hard, you invest everything you got into your life,you purchased an amazing high quality loose leaf tea,  you deserve the best cup of tea possible. Using the right water for making your tea will bring out the best flavor and your taste buds will thank you for that. Tea water is a vessel to bring our the best in tea as the tea master has intended. Use high quality spring water for tea water. I know it will be a bit more pricey then running it from the filter or tab, but you deserve a good cup of tea and not just an average one. Look at the label. Select a water with a super low TDS level (below 50 if possible) and a ph level of 7. Any other water will not give you the best possible experience. A water with a high mineral level will interfere with the minerals in the tea itself and the ideal taste will be off.

Life is too short to drink a bad tea.

Tea of the day

Diversity. We are living in times where diversity and cultural connections are more important than ever and that’s good. Diversity will make us stronger and we can only learn more from each other. The most interesting thing about tea is the thousands of different types and blends and mixes which are available around the planet. We could drink a different tea for the rest of our lives and just have experienced a fraction of what is available. And new types are coming onto the market every day. Sommeliers are here to identify the best solution for you. You like a certain taste. You might like it more fruity, more sweet, more milky or like me ultra pure. Make it a habit to include a new tea every day, learn about different tastes, research the tea, ask sommeliers more about a certain tea type. I am here to help you to make the best out of your day and make your day special.

Fine Water and Friends

The socializer. Water and tea are great platforms to share new experiences with friends and family. Next time you go to a restaurant, see what waters or teas are on the menu. Ask the waiter what they have. You can share this new experience with your friends and you can impress your family with your knowledge about a certain water or tea. Like any knowledge there is so much around us which we have not experienced yet, which is just waiting for to be explored.

You can gift that knowledge. You can gift a special someone in your life with a water 101 course at the fine water academy to learn more about water.

I hope these tips have send a spark of inspiration your way and make you think about trying one of these tips out for yourself. They are small ideas and changes but can have a big impact on your life.

Stay thirsty.