I've been thinking a lot about water lately after a recent trip to Switzerland, where something like 80 percent of the water stems directly from natural springs and groundwater and lakes. Not only is it safe to drink from the tap, but it's also actually considered healthier than the bottled water you'd buy in the store.
Perhaps it's the abundance of really good water that makes the Swiss take their water seriously — so seriously that there are healing-water spas and water sommelier is a real job. In fact, the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, a sprawling health and wellness resort about an hour southeast of Zurich, has not one but two water sommeliers.
I'll be honest: When I read water sommelier listed as one of the featured amenities, I thought the very same thing you're probably thinking right now. A water sommelier? Really? Skeptical, but intrigued, I sat down with one of them, Irina Taculina, to find out more about what exactly a water sommelier does and what I should know about water.
Irina, who was born on the Baltic Sea, in Latvia, says that her life has always been about water, so it made sense to her to study it. She has a certificate from the Doemens Savour Academy in Munich (the only recognized water sommelier program in the world). There, she tasted more than 500 different types of water and learned to differentiate the taste of magnesium from, say, the taste of sodium.
All of this is to say that she knows a lot about water. Here's what she had to say.
A Conversation with a Water Sommelier
Tell us about your job as a water sommelier. What does that entail?
I focus on the healthy and nutritional aspects of water. There's a lot about water that people don't know! Not many people know about the nutritional value of water. It's the healthiest thing you can put into your body.
Many people will go to a restaurant and just order water still or sparkling — that's it. But we have between 25 to 30 different types of water alone at the bar here, many from around Europe including Switzerland, Wales, Italy, Norway.
Do you smell the water like you would a wine?
Actually, no. What you should do is raise the glass and see the color and how clear the water is. You'd be surprised — you can really see a lot of difference.
How do you know what kind of water you should drink?
It's very different depending on the person. If you do a lot of sports, you need high-mineral water like a Vichy or San Pellegrino. For women, I think it's very important to have a lot of calcium and also magnesium.
Can water improve productivity?
High-mineral water, especially water that's higher in magnesium, is good for your heart, muscles, and brain.
What's the best water hangover cure?
Anything with a lot of bicarbonate! It's the minerals, not the bubbles, that your body needs. Same thing for sore throats.
What's one thing we can change in our daily routine?
If you do drink coffee, you should try to make it with mineral water! There is a big difference; the coffee with minerals will have more taste and aroma, and you will love it.
What do you think? Do you believe in the healing powers of water?