Tag Archives: water

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!

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

The power of water in tea

Those who follow me regularly know, that I am a big advocate of high quality water in tea. 95 percent of tea is water and it is the most overlooked component when making tea.

We humans consists 60 percent of water, it is the largest part of our body. Since I am now a health nut, I pay close attention to my hydration and drink water all day long. I am still amazed to see many of my colleagues during meetings and workshops simply ignoring their water intake or start taking water during breaks or when they get thirsty.

Most people do not know, that by simply drinking water regularly and about 80 oz (2.2 liters) per day we will help our body to digest the food and to better support our metabolism. You can loose weight by simply drinking enough water.

The water in tea will count towards this daily goal. The quality of water can have an impact on your taste experience. Good tea water should have a ph level of slightly above 7 and a low TDS, ideally below 30. You will find this information on the label of the water bottle. 

I often image the power of adding water quality as a new way of enhancing your tea drinking experience. Just imagine to read this on a tea menu in a restaurant: “Organic Darjeeling tea brewed with fresh spring water”. Doesn’t this sound amazing?

For me the ideal water is when it is close were the tea has been processed. I read that you can get Long jing green tea in Westlake, China brewed with the water from the tea source. It we think about it deeper, it makes sense. When the tea plant is growing it is taking in the water through the soil. Once tea is being processed, water level in the tea is reduced and comes back into the picture once we add water when brewing tea.

I pay close attention how I use the water during the brewing process. Never reuse or reheat water from a previous brew, as during the

heating oxygen will leave the water and the tea might taste flat when using the water. Most times it will be sufficient to use filtered or good quality tab water for the day to day use.

I truly enjoy the role of water in the traditional tea ceremony. Ms. Tea and myself sometimes enjoy a quiet evening, brewing high quality tea using the Yixing tea pot and the bamboo tray. Water is not only used for cleansing during the ceremony but also acts as a purifier and healer when pouring it over the tea cups and the tea pets. See my previous post on my take on the traditional Chinese tea ceremony (https://manwithamug.com/?s=tea+ceremony ). Quite relaxing!

In the future I intend to learn much more about water as I think it will enhance my understanding as a tea sommerlier and my ability to brew better tea.

Watch this space!

How to Let Go of Your Tea Bag

(and explore a new dimension…)

Many people around the world who love tea every day engage in the same ritual.

Grab a tea bag from a box, drop it into a cup and pour hot water over it. Wait until there is some uniform color appearing in the cup and pour some more ingredients into it like sugar, milk or a slice of lemon. Then take a sip and hope that this mixture will not be terrible.

Or sit in a plane and after the meal service the flight attendant will come around announcing the arrival of the tea (or coffee) to be poured into your little plastic cup.

And many of us who are attending a conference or workshop, grab a teabag from a ‘selection’ box and hope for the best.

This is the daily reality, mostly in the western world, and there is nothing wrong with that. It is a beverage you made for yourself, you like it, it comforts you, and so of course that’s good for you.

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5 Ways Myanmar’s Tea Culture is Unique and Exciting

My Tea Life in Myanmar – One Year In

It is hard to believe that I have now been living almost one year in Myanmar. Time is really flying by! While my life at the moment is mostly focused on my mission with the World Food Programme and the well being of my family, I did experience pockets of tea life over the past year.

I know my blog has not been very active this past year, but that is about to change. Seeing the World Tea Expo happening in Las Vegas I felt a renewed commitment to be a more active part of the tea community. My passion for tea is as strong as ever and I need to share some of my observations more frequently.

Here are my Top 5 observations one year into my tea life in Myanmar:

green tea
1.) Tea is everywhere and a big part of life. I started taking it for granted that with every corner you turn, tea is part of the culture in so many aspects.This goes beyond the tea as a classic drink, but tea as part of food, cosmetics and sweets. I slowly built a life where tea is an essential part of it. I wake up in the morning and shower with green tea shower gel. I make it a special moment of my morning to pick a special tea for the day, which I will sip at work over and over. (More on this in a separate blog post.) I eat a wonderful pickled tea leaf salad and munch on green tea chocolate sticks and have a green tea desert for dinner. So many choices and little moments of  tea joy in the day.

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How to Make Tea Without Hot Water – Cold Brew

What is Cold Brew?
I have been receiving some queries from my tea friends on how to properly cold brew tea.

Personally I am a big fan of this tea brewing method as it gives you a unique tasting experience and you get to know a different, relaxed side of your favorite tea.

When you brew tea hot, over 400 different components are released into the water and some of them are released quicker at higher temperature. You will have noticed that if you brew a hot tea at a too high temperature or for too long it becomes bitter. Not so with cold brew tea, which will be more mellow, more balanced and sweeter as the high temperature components are less dominant.

Cold brewing gives you a whole new range of preparing tea. But you will need patience, as this is not your quick tea bag dunk for 2 minutes. Good cold brew tea will take several hours, if not even overnight to release the wonderful magic that is cold brew tea.
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What is a Tea Sommelier?

TEASOMMELIER_SLIDERA big heated debate is currently running through the tea industry – what is a tea sommelier and how can these people compare themselves to highly skilled wine sommeliers?

As I am on the path to become a tea sommelier myself I thought it might be a good moment to add my five cents to this discussion.

In ancient times, the job of a sommelier (derived from the middle French “saumalier”) was to keep the provisions (food and drinks) of a royal house well-stocked. It also included tasting and taking sips of wine to ensure they are edible and not poisoned.

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