We All Want The Same Thing From Taste -Zero Calorie Drinks

One habit I’ve gained from my zero calorie drink habit is to find creative ways in finding satisfying tastes and flavors. Just because I have elected not to consume calories in my drinks does not mean I do not want to have fun and find excitement in my life. By contrast, it has challenged me to find new ways to fulfill that need. I love the fact that I can better control my calorie intake and my overall diet.

A few suggestions and tips if you would like to try something similar

I realized that we are all the same when it comes to what we want from our drink selections. Yet the result and the outcomes of our desires are vastly different and can be either good or bad for your health. I am trying to nudge you down the path of a more healthy diet in 2019.

We all look for a taste that excites our taste buds. Sadly in today’s world we are sometimes just ‘downing’ our food and drinks without paying attention to how they taste to us. I guess if it does taste not bad, it must be good.

What makes us taste differently?

For a sommelier this becomes the eternal question. Sure, it would be simpler if we all liked a few tastes – a few products on the market – done. But having this infinite diversity of tastes and cultures is what makes our job as sommelier so special, so unique. We try to guide you in finding your personal product which matches your taste. We all have a different amount of taste buds with different intensity and yes, the tasting map is still a myth.

Yet there is so much more to tasting, and being mindful about it will enhance the quality of our life. I am able now to find great taste in water thanks to the education of the Fine Water Academy. I am able to select different teas based on my mood or the time of the day to enhance that time of the day and to bring more energy to the day.

Short cuts

Sometimes we are keen to find short cuts. That is not only true for tastes but also for other areas in life. When we drink a soft drink we like the taste combined with the sugar rush that kicks in immediately after the first sip. We like the little buzz we get after the first cocktail or alcoholic drink together with the taste.

Imagine a world where you do not have that sugar kick or buzz but experience the world as it is. Drinks that do not put your system into insulin lock down or shut down your brain cells. Living a sober and on the extreme side, zero calorie drink life has done more for me than I could have ever imagined. Gone are the days of hangovers or bad stomach aches due to ‘something’ I drank the night before.

As I started to combine my drink diet with better nutrition, mindfulness and fitness, something magical happened. I started to dream bigger dreams, achieve higher goals and feel better about myself. I am able to reach for the stars and grab them with only the sky being the limit. I gave up something small but gained a much better and fulfilled life.

The taste of water

The taste of water continues to fascinate me. I am travelling around the globe with open eyes, experiencing the world more in a more mindful way and discovering things I could have not imagined before. I see globalization not as a threat but as an opportunity to grow and expand in my abilities every day. And I am achieving that with feeling good about myself. A major part is due to my perspective on life and my relationship to taste.

15067806 – dripping heart over the water

I continue to explore the relationship between water and food. Since my studies with the fine water academy and my eye opening visit to the water library, I am continuing to explore matching and contrasting pairs of water and food. My all time favorite is Vichy Catalan and dark chocolate. This is an amazing example of how two different components that taste great individually, can create a flavor symphony together. If you have access to this water and dark chocolate, try it. You will not be disappointed. Also, the podcast of Martin Riese has great episodes on food and water as well of course the amazing fine water facebook site.

Just yesterday I tried one of my favorite flavor experiments and I would highly recommend it to you. I brewed a cup of Earl Grey from a standard supermarket tea bag and a cup of high quality Earl Grey made from a high quality loose leaf tea.

Flat vs Flavorful

The different is staggering. The standard tea bag tea will taste flat, but if you are used to this taste you will not notice the difference. Its like flying business class for the first time. Once you experience that it is hard to go back to economy.

A high quality loose leaf tea will come in dimensions. You will have a great entrance of the tea. It will swirl around and leave your taste buds nourished and excited. Great teas will stay in your memory and will make a taste impression for a long time to come.

The same goes for water.  If you taste tap water it will be an OK experience, but once you compare it with a high quality fine water from an amazing source you do not want to go back. There are waters that will leave you longing for more which you will remember years after you first tasted them.

One such water for me is Cotorella from Italy. It is something about the stage between the mouth feel as it is swirling around and the finish. It leaves you wanting to take another sip.

So with that go out and explore the great waters and teas this world has to offer and hopefully they will bring a little bit of joy into your life.

Stay Thirsty!

How to Find Tea and Water Inspiration In Stunning Japan

With the holidays now behind us (☹ ) , it is time for me to reflect on the past few days and weeks. For me travel is always a journey of inspiration. Our Christmas trip this year brought us to Japan, a country that has such a deep tea culture. I had also been in Japan in 1993 and was looking forward to showing my family around.

The holiday period also gave me time to look forward to the new year and to think about where to take my sommelier experience. My goal in the tea and water world is to continue to inspire as many people as possible and to raise awareness and excitement for high quality tea and fine water. I want to continue working with the Myanmar hospitality industry to make an impact on raising awareness of fine water and learn more about high quality tea. I am in need of practical tea making experience and hope that 2019 will be the year I can work on a tea plantation. We have only reached the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the best water and tea experience.

My tea and water blog

From now on I will blend both industries into this one blog. My experience in the tea world can benefit the fine water industry. And my amazing experience learning about fine water will help to inspire the tea industry to use better quality water when brewing tea. I aim to further develop my skills to become a bridge ambassador between the water and tea industries and bring value to both. I do not want to have ‘just another tea and water blog’ but want to ‘oooh’ and ‘ahh’ you with my entries. Sometimes thinking about one industry helps me to understand the other one better. They are certainly not in isolation, but are linked to other areas and categories in the hospitality industry.

Tea in Japan is everywhere. It is firmly embedded in traditions, in the culture and for sure in any restaurant you will eat at. Japan produces and consumes 90% green tea. I was excited to find Japanese black tea at a shop on the bottom of Mt. Fuji together with amazing green teas.

It was great to experience the combination of tea as a drink and as a food. Two of my favorite things: freshly brewed Japanese green tea and green tea ice cream.

The first tea experience when we arrived in Tokyo was at the Hama Rikyu Gardens. We found ancient tea houses, some of them have been rebuilt with amazing materials and a passion for original details. A tea house in the gardens offered matcha tea with sweets. I had to think back to my first visit to Japan in 1993 and how we were privileged to experience a traditional tea ceremony. My wonderful tea educator, Donna Fellmann has studied the tea ceremony for decades. It is a world of tea rituals and procedures which work together to create the best experience for its guests.

For the kids there was a different kind of fun – tea cups in Disneyland!

I just love how readily tea is available in Japan. Everywhere there are vending machines dispensing ready to drink tea. I loved this matcha as a morning drink!

In the evening I would order Oolong tea in a restaurant, served in a wonderful tea pot and tiny tea cups. In the western world it is not common yet to drink tea together with a meal, it is rather a dessert option. I found it wonderful to pair my teas with the respective dish. An Oolong with a roasted and complex flavor pairs well with a meaty and hearty dish.

Find this print on Redbubble

While being inspired by the peace and tranquility of Japan, I was able to reflect on the fine water category as well. The hotel we stayed in had a water dispenser machine. It got me thinking that the relationship of people with water is impacted by such machine. We see wine as precious coming out of a fancy bottle. However we are used to water coming from a tap or a dispensing machine. 

How do we change this relationship? How to we make people feel more interested in fine water and the benefits it comes with? These are questions I will ponder more in 2019.

I will leave you with my wish that you spend 2019 a bit more mindful about water and tea and get inspired to try the best of the best for a little piece of affordable luxury.  

Stay Thirsty!

How to create your happy life in 2019 guaranteed – Turning wine into water

As we approach the end of the year, we start reflecting on what went well and what did not. We will search deep for our desires and sometimes will feel regret on what we didn’t have time to do. What if I can show you a way that your desires will come true in 2019 without promising you a magic pill? What if there are achievable ways to make time for your dreams and growing as a person? What if I told you that there is a way to become happy by making small changes? And it is all in front of you in and it is as simple as water

This year has been amazing in so many ways. Working with Michael Masha and Martin Riese to become a Water Sommelier has been a life changing experience. Becoming the first graduate of the Fine Water Academy has just been the icing on the cake.

What this year has done has changed my relationship with liquids, in particular with alcohol and my transition to my zero-calorie drink intake.

Yes, you read that correctly. I do not consume any calories when taking drinks. Period. What sounds like a dull and boring experience has become an elevation of my life perspective and a substantial improvement of my health to levels I would have never imagined to be possible. It is an entirely different world.

 I only consume three type of drinks: Water, Tea and Coffee. All of them in their natural and purest form do not contain any calories. That requires skipping sugar or milk or anything else. The trick is how to make it interesting, have fun in life and experience joy and flavor with this horrible sounding drink mix.

Let’s start with the benefits.

Go back 15 months ago and you would find me in the evening on the couch in a sad mood having consumed glasses of wine to dull the sadness. I was exhausted, depressed due to heart problems, and morbidly obese. I did not have any energy and was not looking forward to what was coming. My marriage and my relationship to my kids where hanging by a thin thread, spiraling downwards. My doctors did not make my life outlook too promising unless I decided to change something radically.

Then came October 2017. Something made ‘click’ and the pieces were slowly falling into place. I joined a group called ‘One Year NoBeer (OYNB)’ to find that straw of hope to cling on to. Once you sign up, you receive a short daily video on Day 1 , Day 2 and so on. Each video would focus on what can be done to change your life, one single step at a time. I started to take small steps, and made small changes. Eventually the small changes started to lead to big changes. The OYNB community would lift me up, put energy under my wings to make me fly higher and be myself. One day became 28 , 28 days became 90 days and 90 days became 365 days. One year without a single drop of alcohol!

What sounded like a horrific, sad and uncomfortable journey has become the best journey of my life. Back to the present. I lost 75 pounds, maintained my target weight for the past 5 months (BMI 22.5), have perfect blood pressure (114/71) and I am starting to see the shape of a six pack (not in the form of cans but on my stomach). I experience levels of energy I haven’t seen in 15 years and my family could not be more happy with me.

Having control over your calorie intake for drinks gives you better control over your nutrition management and ultimately over your wellness for the day. Instead of a constant roller coaster ride of cravings and energy lows and highs, it is a more stable and joyful experience. One that lets you focus on growth and a balanced approach towards health and happiness. 

That single step in October 2017 created a journey which continues to elevate me to new heights.

How to do it?

Being a water and tea sommelier has helped a lot. Through the fine water academy I learned to experience and appreciate water on a different level. I learned to see water as an affordable luxury. I started to learn about the origins and the taste profiles of water and how water can become not just a hydration tool but also an enjoyable part of my dining experience. During my journey I learned that balance is essential to move forward and grow as a person. Complement this with the varieties of tea and coffee and I have all that I need to enjoy my life, while maintaining my health.

 

When we grow up we are culturally programmed. We are told at a young age that in order to have fun we need to drink alcohol and that it is cool to drink with your friends. Advertising for alcohol is all around us and many studies are trying to convince us that alcohol in moderation is good for our health. What the ads do not tell us is what alcohol is doing to our body, not only the drink, but the sugar and the calories. The ads do not tell us what  alcohol does to our energy levels and to our development.

“Having alcohol is borrowing happiness from tomorrow”

We all want to be happy. Our whole life purpose is to stay happy or to become happier. We are told that alcohol is the solution, that once we drink we will be happy. Yet sometimes we do not understand the difference between happiness and pleasure. Pleasure can be good or bad and it might not lead to the road to happiness. A short term pleasure kick might set us on the path to illness. A lot of addictions prove that. Our body likes the feeling once we drink alcohol but regret sets in the next morning when we have a hangover. Somehow we forget and the cycle starts over again, looking for that happiness.

Shortcuts 

The marketing world around us is so helpful. They present us with shortcuts so we do not have to put in the hard work to grow or to achieve happiness. They suggest us that short term pleasure (over and over) is good for us and that sustainable and long term happiness is a fiction. Here is a pill to make you happy. Here is a pill for weight loss. Have a beer to make you feel better and to get comfortable. Take this drink to achieve great things. Have this comfort food to make you feel better.

Wrong. 

Short cuts (the way marketing suggests) almost never lead to happiness. They give us instant gratification but they will be soon over and the problems will be still there, in some cases even worse.

 

Over the past year I have learned to become happy by drinking water. I enjoy the different tastes and stories behind the waters. I am on a path to show people that drinking mineral water can be cool and can improve your taste experience and your wellness. This is my mission as a water sommelier and I am joined by a few converted who hopefully can join together to reach the broader masses. With my OYNB friends we feel like the unplugged from the movie ‘The Matrix’, seeing real life as it really is. A big part of becoming a better human is to help others and as a water sommelier I am planning to do just that.

Having a life that makes me a happy, while at the same time makes me grow, keeps me healthy and elevates my ability to function as a better human being. It is priceless. I am trying to reach out to you, to help you to see that once you give up a little bit (like booze) you can gain something bigger (a happy and fulfilled life). 

I hope you can join me on that quest. Feel free to reach out to me for further details. For my fellow OYNB friends, I have written 10 blogs on the OYNB facebook page on my main success factors to stay sober and have fun for 365 days. 

Stay thirsty!

How to Translate The Taste Of Fine Water

The natural substance water per se tends to be tasteless” wrote Aristotle and many people around the world share this view.

I respect Aristotle but I do not agree. As a sommelier my taste buds became sensitive to everything that they experience and that includes water. Water contains minerals and these minerals influence the way we experience this lifesaving liquid. Water is an essential component of our food.

How to you describe the taste of water?

When I ask friends, I normally get the response: “Water tastes like water” or “Water tastes like nothing, it has no taste”.

Deep inside of my sommelier heart, I feel challenged, I see an opportunity to bring more clarity. Actually when you watch videos of Martin Riese or Michael Masha, you get a good sense of how to describe water tastes and we learned about that a great deal during the studies with the Fine Water academy.

What can I add to this conversation?

My starting point as always is my experience as a tea sommelier. Describing tea is both an art and a science. During my tea studies I used a tasting wheel, which has different categories and sub categories on describing the different tastes of tea.

This is a well-established tool and it got me thinking:

How about a Water tasting wheel?

Would people be interested in such a tool? Would it help the water industry to make the taste of water more visible? I thought about this many times and here are my initial thoughts. It’s a fun process so come along with me on this ride.

The first challenge is how to break down the taste of water into different sections on the wheel. I first started with the obvious. Water with bubbles and water without bubbles. There is clearly a taste bud distinction in these two areas. We experience still water differently than sparkling water. But how to integrate with the different level of TDS? Normally there are sparkling waters which also have a high TDS, but there are also sparkling waters with low TDS. What to do?

Some of the initial words on water taste came to my mind:clean, fresh, energizing, vibrant, delicate, soft and dull.

 

The normal taste categories like sweet, sour, salty, bitter,even umami would be a good option. In my tea studies with the World Tea Academy I learned not to use generic words to describe tastes (such as “This tea tastes sweet”, my teacher always reminded me to be more descriptive, such as “This tea tastes like a dandelion flower or sweet as maple honey”. So the tastes of the water should be very descriptive beyond the standard taste categories.

I like the take, Nestle has taken in their water taste glossary:   It’s a good starting point to get some ideas for terms on how to best describe waters.

Somehow we also need to take into consideration the categories which the fine water society has outlined : http://finewaters.com/water-and-food-matching/flavor-taste-of-water

The trick will be to combine all these elements onto a flavor wheel.

Stay away from ‘pure’

A big no-no is the word ‘pure’. The fine water industry is clearly separating itself from the concept of ‘pure’ water and that is good so. Pure water is not desired, purified water is not fine water. The most extreme, distilled water is actually damaging to the human body as it is missing crucial minerals which the body needs. I still remember the water module during my tea studies, when I was living in Italy.

We were asked to brew tea in distilled water to describe the difference to regular water or spring water (more on this you can find in the final project in the fine water academy). Distilled water in Italy is sold in Pharmacies. When I mentioned to the Pharmacists that I am planning to drink the distilled water, his look turned very concerned and heal most did not sell me the distilled water. He said : Don’t drink the water it is dangerous, not good for human body!”. When I needed a second bottle, I actually had to go to another pharmacy to avoid this crazy discussion. Yet in the US, distilled water is marketed as healthy water in the supermarket.

 

When we describe a taste we link it normally to a memory of another tasting experience. I do this with tea. Once I take a sip of a tea I close my eyes and reflect on what that taste reminds me of. It would be a flower, a fruit I have tasted in a market or something familiar from where I used to live.

Another perspective on water taste description comes from one of my idols in the tea industry, Master Tseng from the tea house La Maison de trois tes. I love her vibrant tasting notes, which bring pictures of water to life. It is an interesting concept.

Here are her tasting notes of Aqua Panna:

With a hint of wet granite. It is like discovering a clear stream. It has a light, almost silky, texture. Its balanced taste combines salty, bitter and sweet elements and conjures up wet white pebbles”.

 

I just love the concept of reflecting tastes based on elements we find in nature. This is what tasting is all about. It is vibrantly describing for your audience how you experience a taste and making it as appetizing and romantic as possible so we can connect to that experience.

I hope I did inspire you a bit and when you taste your next sip of water, try to describe how you experience this taste.

I think I just touched on the tip of a wonderful iceberg and will continue exploring this subject.

Stay Thirsty!

The 4 fantastic dimensions of water that will make your day

As a water and tea sommelier I am probably thinking and living water and tea more than the average person is. My goal is not covert you into super experts, I want to find a way into your heart and give you ideas on how water and tea can enhance your life and give you a better experience.

You can look at water from different perspectives. For the normal person in the developed world, if you get thirsty, you get a glass of water and move on. But water can be so much more. I hope that the following thoughts can create a spark of inspiration in you to see water in a different angle. If I get you to think a few minutes about water – mission accomplished.

Water as the most essential component of life

As a child growing up in Germany, I did not pay much attention to water. It came out of the tap, it was in the fridge, I just had to say the word and water would appear.  I did not realize that it is the most essential liquid on the planet. You only miss something, if it is not there. Fast forward a few centuries and here I am sitting in Yangon, Myanmar, one of the least developed countries in the world. Suddenly my relationship to water changed on so many different levels.

Water is a valuable commodity, something to be appreciated and to be grateful for every single day. We need to pump water into a tank every day to make it available and then it can only used for the bathroom and for washing the dishes. I cannot even brush my teeth with this water and I have to use bottled water for that. We have water filters around the house and have to spend a lot of time every day to ensure that my family and me has clean drinking water.

And I am one of the lucky ones in Myanmar. A large part of the population cannot even afford to by the purified water sold here in big 5 gallon bottles. The have to drink the poor quality water just to survive. Some of the people will get sick and some will even die on diseases from bacteria in this water. Providing access to clean drinking water to the people of Myanmar is one of the missions of the UN here in Myanmar.

 

Water for hydration

About a year ago I changed my approach to hydration drastically. I started to carry water bottles around with me and take a sip every once in a while. The change in my well being has been dramatically. It contributed (together with diet and exercise) to my 75 pound weight loss. Proper hydration (constant sipping with up to 2 liters a day) is like the oil for an engine. It will help your body to perform more efficiently. While easy to do and a game changer, still very few people pay attention to proper hydration. If you really want to help your body, use good quality mineral water. The minerals will help your organs to function better and assist in proper digestion of food. It also promotes vital brain functions. 

Water as a culinary experience

Water can be so much more than just proper hydration. Since there are so many different high quality mineral available,each with their unique terroir and story behind them, making such waters part of your meal experience, will allow you to learn about cultures, and makes you appreciate the different tastes around the world. There are some waters I am deeply connecting with and it is always a joyful experience doing so. The Cottorella water or Aqua Morelli water from Italy are such examples. Drinking them is a unique experience , one that adds a bit of pleasure to my daily life and is a piece of affordable luxury to add something positive to our day. Pairing water with different foods is an art by itself, but will create a wow factor to your next dinner party. See the fine water facebook site for some amazing inspirations.

 

Water in a futuristic dimension

I would like to leave you with another dimension of water, which I strongly believe in, but a lot of people dismiss as nonsense. Water has memory. Watch the documentary here and you will understand. It was amazing to see the experiments where water was played sound of a genetic blueprint and then was able to recreate building blocks based on that memory; just incredible. We are still in the beginning of this journey, but I strongly believe that water will play an important role in medicines in the centuries to come. I love the fact, that the water brand 10,000 BC, which bottles 10,000-year-old glacier water, plays inspirational music during the bottling process.

I hope these thoughts made you stop and think about water in a way you might not have before and maybe one or two things can be useful to improve your daily life. Feel free to reach out to me in case you have further questions, I am always happy to answer them.

Stay Thirsty!

You are experiencing your water all wrong

In the fast-paced world we are living in, where we are constantly on the run, the experience of eating and drinking does not get the time it deserves. We experience the taste of what we eat and drink either as a thumbs up or thumbs down.

 

Slow down the time

A sommelier slows down time and breaks down the taste experience into several components. Tasting is the most essential skill for a sommelier, it is both art and science. That skill is built on a lot of practice, a sense of curiosity and a way of memorizing the different experiences into different categories.

Tasting tea

When I started as a tea sommelier with the World Tea Academy, just to keep up with the programme I had to spend hours in the kitchen tasting and describing tastes. It involved all senses, the look of the tea leaf, the smell of the dry and wet leaves, even the sound of the processed leave and the crispness when you roll it through the fingers.

I still remember my times during the summer in Swansea,Massachusetts. While the family would happily make their way to the beach, I would stay from morning to evening, preparing, tasting and describing one tea after the other. Tasting is providing your mind with a memory, an experience linked to a product. It is that process of constant repeating, one tea spoon slurped into the mouth which makes for a better sommelier. 

Water tasting

Tasting water is similar but also a special experience on its own. While most people agree that tea has different tastes and it becomes easier when the tea also has a different color, convincing and inspiring people, that the same colorless and mostly odorless liquid can have different tastes, can be a challenge.

But a challenge I am willing to take on thanks to my studies with the Fine Water Academy.

The smile on a face of a person that ‘gets it’ , that sees the difference in the taste and the value that the experience has brought to them, is reward enough.

To start tasting as a non-taster, you best break down the process into 4 parts:

  1. The prep work

Not mandatory but very useful, trust me on this one.

The first part of tasting happens without even having a single drop in your mouth. Research. Look at the label of the bottle. Find the TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) number, if high, your tasting experience will be much more complex than a low number, where your taste buds will get a different vibe. Read the minerals description and see if any of the numbers jumps out and is higher than the others. In most waters the mineral content is small , measured in milligrams so a fraction of a gram compared to the 1,000 grams of a big water bottle. Try to research where the water is coming from, the terroir we had in the previous blog entry.  It will help you later to categorize your taste experience, when it comes full circle and helps you to compare to waters from other regions.

  • The arrival

Now take a big sip of the water.

 

We will leave the slurping for another blog entry, for now just take a nice, juicy sip. Feel how the water enters into your mouth, feel the sensation. Some waters will come with a big entrance, with a big weight on the tongue, while others will be light as a feather and will sneak their weight in. I love the way Aqua Morelli from Italy, a low TDS water, enters, almost unnoticed without any attraction. Other waters want to be noticed, take Perrier from France with loud, bold bubbles it wants to be the star of the event. Sip after Sip you will experience the difference between a quiet and loud entrance or something in between. The water makes its way to the taste buds and they can sense its arrival. Just notice the sensation and link it to the water brand. Check.

  • The mouthfeel

Once the water has arrived, your taste buds will go to work.They will examine on what their guest has to offer. This will be the most complex step in the tasting process where many different events can occur. It will be a combination of different taste sensations. Some waters will be light,they will be salty, some might have a slight bitterness, and some will have a sweetness to them. And here comes the most interesting part of tasting. Your collective taste memory will come together, almost as a grand jury and will present the verdict, if you as the person likes that taste or not. All of your taste experiences in your life, all the foods and drinks you like or hate, will contribute to this decision. I like this sip of water or I do not like it.

Ask yourself : Why do I not like this taste? Do I not like the small or large bubbles? Is it the sweetness? Is it the saltiness? That reflection and description of the taste experience will help you to find the taste you like better. And as sommeliers we can help you with this. Every person tastes different, because of our taste bud composition and sensitivity but also because of our taste journey through our life. That dislike of lemons might play a role or that like of apples. When you can be descriptive to a sommelier on what you like or dislike in a restaurant, we can help you to find a water that fits your taste preference and the structure your taste buds will enjoy. Like the embracement of our diversity, our different tastes make us unique and our job as a sommelier so interesting.

  • The Finish

Once you explored the sip of water, it is time to actually drink it. It will lead to another important experience in the taste journey-the finish. How you will experience the drinking of the water will have a huge impact if you want another sip of that brand or not. For me the best example is always Cottorella, a low TDS water from Italy. After every sip and the tasting experience my brain sends me another signal : “I want another sip of that!”.

 

Supermarket assignment

So next time you are in a supermarket, pick up a water you have never tasted again and a bottle which is very familiar to you. Try the 4 steps and reflect after each step. Describe the impressions, best write them down as tasting note next to the name of that water. You are on your way on becoming a taste expert. And next time you are in a restaurant, describe your impressions to the wait staff or the sommelier of the house, they will be hugely impressed and will make sure that your water experience will be the best you ever had in a restaurant.

Stay Thirsty!

The astonishing surprise of taste in fine luxury water

Does water have taste?

Recently I get this question a lot when talking water to my friends and colleagues. My answer, out of my gut, has been so far:

Yes, of course!

Over the past week I realized, that the fundamental challenge is not if water has taste, but how to describe and make people aware of the fine differences when tasting water.

As a sommelier, tasting is THE essential skill together with describing tastes and making people excited about that description.

Tasting is a journey. It is the sum of our experiences we had in our life with different types of foods and liquids. Tasting is linked to other senses: smell, visual and sound experiences. 

The taste map

We all taste different, we have millions of taste buds in our mouth, each of them positioned uniquely to give feedback on a taste we experience. Sometimes during our life we hear about the taste map, different regions on our tongue that taste different things. That map turns out to be wrong, call it fake news. Each taste bud can taste any taste type, although with a different intensity. That makes us unique as humans. We all have a different taste perception of the exact same food based on this unique profile. That makes the job of a sommelier difficult, finding something that tastes good and appeals to a lot of people, even we are all different and have different taste perceptions.

The taste types

There are five different taste types: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, umami (savory). Some literature calls for other tastes but these are the 5 most agreed on categories. As we start our life (and most likely we start with our mothers milk), we start to experience different tastes in the liquids and foods we are given. Some of these tastes we will start to like, some of them we will start to dislike. It is the collection of these experiences that shape our taste profile and our perception of tastes. We start to develop preferences and favorites build on these childhood memories and experiences in our life journey.

 

Taste of water

Most of us do not think of taste when it comes to water. I even heard now that some people use it to ‘neutralize’ the taste before tasting something else. As a sommelier I spend the past years to examine this aspect and bring more inspiration to the taste of water and tea.

Fine Water contains minerals, their level is measured by TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) and that number is printed on the bottle. TDS will tell you the level of minerals and you normally find the composition of minerals on the label of the water bottle. Lots of sodium and your water will taste salty, other minerals will tilt the balance towards bitter, sweet or sour. Bubbles in water will add to this complexity and will let you experience the taste of water in a different way. Did you know that salt water in the ocean has a TDS of 35,000 ? Your average mineral water in the supermarket will have a TDS of 250 – although you should not drink salty sea water as it will be damaging to your body.

 

Bottle check

So next time you pick up a bottle of water in the supermarket, look at the label and try to find the TDS number on the label. That will give you an indication of what to expect in terms of flavor complexity. In the next couple blogs I will try to unpack this flavor profiles with some exciting examples of different waters.

Stay Thirsty!

Talking terroir – the elevator pitch

You might have heard about the business exercise: step into an elevator and you have 30 seconds or less to explain the message you want to bring across. What would it be for explaining terroir for fine water to your captive audience?

We drink it every day but we hardly think about where it comes from. And there is the challenge. Water is not just water. Water has terroir – a place of origin, a place of birth, a source where we pour it into the bottle.

And that’s where it gets interesting. Fine waters have a great story behind them. You not only learn about the water itself but you learn about a region in the world, a place of history and a deeper structure of what makes this water unique and special.

Once you know the story of a water, you will see it with a different perspective, trough different lenses. Take this true story.

The Italian Workshop

Last week I was sitting in a workshop in Rome, Italy. The meeting room structure is the usual suspect: U shaped meeting table with a name sign in front of it and a notepad. Nothing exciting, been there, done that. Next to the name tag is a bottle of water. Also not that unusual. The previous version of myself would pour some water over the term of the meetings into a glass, take a sip and watch another power point presentation (I know – sounds boring, but hang in there, it gets better).

The new version of me got excited about the bottle of Aqua Panna from Tuscany. I realized that this inspiration came from the Italian air I was breathing. I admired the new label with a big ‘1569’ on the top and the mineral content description at the back selling the new ‘ Tuscan Taste’ campaign.

My mind started to wonder. I transformed myself back to the 16th century to the only road connecting north and south Italy, I pictured myself as a traveler on the road for many days and stopping at an outpost. There was a spring and I quenched my thirst with cold, fresh tasting water. The name of the town reads Villa Panna. In the distance I see a colorful villa in all its glory.

Pictures of the Medici Family come to my mind. I picture the cold rain in the beautiful Tuscan country side pouring over Olive trees and rolling hills. I picture the rain travelling for 13 years through the soil and arriving at that fresh, cold spring to quench the first of tired travelers. My thoughts get interrupted as the speaker has finished his power point and I am being pulled back into the reality of the meeting.

This is the story of Aqua Panna, a spring water from Tuscany, Italy, one of the most widely available waters in the world.

Fine Waters around the world come with these stories, their landscape, their terroir. This was just one of them. There are thousands of springs around the world, each with their unique story. Some water traveled for a few years others are unlocked from 10,000 year old icebergs. We enrich our life by learning about these special and great tasting fine waters and we add another dimension to our life experience.

So next time you pick up a bottle of fine mineral water in the supermarket, do a little research and try to unlock the story behind the terroir of the water.

Stay thirsty!

Water Sommelier : The journey to a hydrated world

I have been a water sommelier for 4 weeks now and it is time to share by initial reflections with you.  My emotions have been stirred up this way (in a good sense) in seeing opportunities and challenges on the road ahead.

This new path has been a wonderful journey so far.


It is largely a path where you do not see a lot of foot prints but that will change in the future. You can for sure see the clear footprints of Martin Riese and Michael Masha on this path and they lead us to a brighter and more elegant experience for water.

You are what?

When I tell people that I am a water sommelier, I get two very different reactions. One is from my friends and colleagues, which is normally a blank stare and confusion of what to do with this piece of information. 65 percent of our body is made of water, yet we are not comfortable to deal or discuss the most essential liquid on this planet. Most people accept the fact that it is around them and as long it serves the purpose of saving our lifes on a daily basis the world is ok. It is when it is not present, the attention turns towards water and the priorities shift. I see this on a daily basis in Myanmar how difficult the struggle for clean and drinkable water is and how much harm polluted water can do to a person.

 

The better ones will start seeing me as a novelty act, some sort of circus attraction and wait for me to perform magic tricks. Once I explain more what a water sommelier is, the interest sparks and their eyes brighten and the understanding kicks in. This is the hardest part of being a sommelier: use the moment of confusion to turn it quickly into interest and fascination about this important subject.  

The other reaction is from people in the restaurant and water business and it reassures me that not all is lost and that we are heading towards a bright water experience. Here is a story which describes this the best.

The spark

I recently was invited to a business breakfast on behalf of my organization (WFP) to network with people. Just by coincidence a famous owner of a restaurant chain was sitting next to me, someone I highly admire for his innovation in Myanmar and the hope his creative food brings to the country. I introduced myself and we exchanged pleasantries about our line of work and why we are here. He had just recently given an inspiration talk at TEDxYangon, which was the highlight of this event. I showed my respect about his work and the talk and after a few minutes we went on to the next person in this networking event.

At the end of the event I took all my courage (I am a bit of an introvert) and joked on the way out about his main restaurant in Yangon being my life line for Aqua Panna and San Pellegrino in the city. When I told him that I am a water sommelier his mood changed and his eyes showed a spark. He introduced me to his brother (an icon by himself – the only certified chocolatier in Myanmar and the creator of the best ice cream in Yangon) and we started talking water. Water became our connector, it had this magic spell in igniting passions in us and brightened the conversation tenfold.  That is the essence of being a water sommelier, connecting people and transferring a piece of passion to them about fine water.

 

When you are passionate about something, life will bring you the most amazing opportunities. Keep an open mind and when you see an opportunity grab it and turn it into something magical.

The road less taken

I am still at the beginning of this journey, but I can see that it will be a road less taken. I can see a future where people pay attention to the quality of their water and enjoy the experience of learning and tasting fine waters around the world. While we are still challenged in hydrating properly to make the best of water for our wellness, water can be so much more. It can complement our restaurant experience and interact with tea and wine and different types of food. The opportunities are endless, we as water sommeliers can open the door for people to experience something wonderful, something that will enrich their life. Water creates an opportunity for affordable luxury, bringing both wellness and a tasting experience to the table.

Where to go from here?

My first couple weeks thought me that small improvements will lead to bigger changes in the future. I will not be discouraged that my passion for water and (tea) is not widely shared (yet) but if I can make people think about high quality water for 5 minutes of their day that will be a huge success. I will continue working with the restaurant industry and water brands here in Myanmar. What initially was a means for assignments for the Fine Water Academy continues to amaze me and there is so much potential for Myanmar and the world. My dream is to bring a fine Myanmar mineral water to the global market for everybody to enjoy and hopefully compete in water competitions around the world.

I will continue to educate my friends and family and organize intimate water tastings in combination with tea and food. I hope to organize a larger event here in Myanmar for more people to enjoy this experience.

I will share my experiences around the world on this blog, keeping my eyes and taste buds open and share with you interesting stories around water and tea from my travels.

Stay thirsty!

My passionate journey to become a dual water and tea sommelier

When I started my studies with the World Tea Academy my teacher, Donna Fellmann, noted in one of her first comments to me: “I wonder what your niche will be…”. That question stuck with me throughout my studies. Once I graduated as a tea sommelier in 2016, I was on cloud nine, sharing my knowledge on my newly created tea blog ManwithaMug and life was good. Over the years, that question however came back, what value do I provide to the tea industry? What makes me unique compared to the hundreds of other tea blogs out there? I don’t just want to review countless teas and write about them, I want to create something new and special. So I went back to the drawing board and look at what my biggest passions during my tea studies have been. I remembered with a smile the segments about tea and water. I poured my heart into that month, as I find it fascinating how good quality (and the bad and ugly) water affects the taste of the final tea.

Fine Water Academy

When Martin Riese and Michael Mascha announced the opening of the Fine Water Academy a light bulb went off. I was following them since years as they stand for high quality and standards in the water industry in an informative, innovative and entertaining way. Learning more about water would mean more value for my contribution as a tea sommelier. I plunged into the journey and signed up to take the water sommelier course. What started has been an eye opening and liberating process to take my understanding of water to the highest level. Not only did I became more aware of my understanding of the capacity of the water industry in Myanmar, it opened up new avenues to explore amazing and talented staff in restaurants and driven owners of water brands who want to make a difference. I started to learn more about the use of social media to present and explore different aspects of the water industry. In the back of my mind has always been how this will help the tea industry. As I blogged about here many times, we spend a lot of time focusing on good quality tea but not on the other 95 percent of which tea is made of.

Fine Water journey

The number of water brands is quite limited in Myanmar and can be counted on one hand. It is still challenging to get clean drinking water and access is still limited. In order to accomplish the challenging assignments for the water sommelier course, I had to bring in suitcases of water from Bangkok! (Ms. Tea declared me officially insane!) 

I started engaging with Addy, the owner of Birmanie, the only spring water in Myanmar and his brand has so much potential for the international market. My journey with the fine water academy created something I did not expected in this journey: a sincere appreciation for the complexity and challenges of the water industry. To this day I get blank stares from some people when I tell them that I am a water sommelier. Many of them have not heard of this term. Yet more then 60 percent of our body is water. Water can be an culinary and elevating experience in a restaurant besides just the jug of water we “wash” our food down with.

I did it!

Not in my wildest dreams would I have imagined, that I became the first graduate of the Fine Water Academy (Certificate 001!) and I am aware of the responsibility this comes with. I will support Martin and Michael in amplifying the message, that water is not just water and that there is place for fine water as a culinary experience and as an affordable luxury. I want to become a bridge ambassador between the water and tea industry to benefit them both.

I feel I regained new motivation and energy to take this blog (now a water and tea blog) to the next level and inspire and entertain you with my insights into both worlds. Please let me know your feedback what you would like me to focus on and what you would like to learn more about. In the meantime please check out my final project, where I explore the opportunities between water and tea