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.
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.