True Treats Candy Hosts Free Historic Water Tasting
From Sparkling to Spring the Waters are Unique
Includes Candy and Soda Samples – Event Followed by an Old Time Movie
On April 21st a surprising culinary treat was available to all at True Treats Historic Candy’s theater: an historic water tasting. Yes – water. In this free taste-bud opening experience, the public sampled over 20 kinds of water from numerous time periods and categories from the first in the nation through today’s municipal, spring-fed, and sparkling water, with descriptions of them all.
According to True Treats Candy founder, Susan Benjamin, the event was part of Harpers Ferry’s Earth Day WaterFaire which celebrates the area’s river heritage. True Treats decided to join in from a culinary perspective, inspired by Berkeley Springs West Virginia’s international water competition, where Ms. Benjamin was a judge. She said: “Each water sample has its own distinct characteristics that reveal so much about our history and what drinking water has become today.”
The water tasting gave visitors the opportunity to vote on each selection – the winner will be announced through the media, on the True Treats Web site, and through e-mails to interested participants. In addition, the event included:
- Samples of hard candies, formally known as “boiled sugars,” made with a water base, and related treats;
- Samples of ginger beer, sarsaparilla and other old time favorites;
- A lottery with an historic prize for the winner;
- Displays of historic water jugs and glasses from the 1700s-mid-1900s; and
- Post-tasting old-time movies
As the warm weather draws near, Americans are putting on their hiking boots, cleaning off their bicycles, and readying their water bottles for their seasonal spike in thirst. But which water to drink? Yes, all drinking water starts as precipitation, much of it having fallen hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Yet the differences between waters is remarkable depending on where it fell and how it was absorbed into waterways. More recently, bottled water marketers have entered the scene, touting the wonders of their products and, behind the scenes, planting fear about their main competitor – the tap. In the end, we’re left with a confusing supply of options. These definitions should help:
Spring. Coming directly from a spring or through a borehole right next to the spring, the flavor and composition of this water depends on the spring itself. Given the FDA’s loose definition of spring water, the so-called “spring” water may come from other sources, as well.
Mineral water. No surprise – water with high mineral content. At one time, health-seekers went to spas where they bathed in and drank mineral water straight from the earth. Today, it’s bottled and shipped.
Raw. Comes straight from the ground without processing or filtration systems. Bottlers believe the “living” waters contain nutrients, such as microscopic algae, potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium and, so, have “healing” qualities.
Glacial. The remains of glaciers that covered roughly 1/3 of the earth 20,000 years ago, this water is low on minerals and tastes much like rainwater. It may have more contaminants than other options.
Artisan. Essentially spring water held in a sloped aquifer which pushes water to the surface, creating a steady fountain. Artisan water tends to be more protected from containments than shallow sources.
Carbonated. Some water is naturally carbonated, while others have carbon dioxide infused at the bottler’s plant. Oddly, some bottlers remove the carbon dioxide and replace it after the water is processed.
Well. Gone are the days of a hole in the ground with a bucket held by ropes to contain it. Today’s wells are machine pumped Home owners swear by the well-water in their backyards, but bottlers avoid the description, making bottled well water hard to find.
Municipal aka Tap. Millions of Americans drink tap water from a variety of sources. While highly regulated, the taste and quality can be affected by everything from the surrounding environment to the pipes it travels through. Still, the price is right and amendments, from filters to distilling processes ae available.
Purified. After going through a multi-faceted cleansing process, this (typically tap) water is made “pure”…and tasteless. Some companies add flavor, such as Nestle who apply a 12-step purification process to their tap water, then “add a light blend of minerals” to give their product “its distinctive, refreshing taste.”
Fluoridated. In the 1940s, researchers determined that tasteless and odorless fluoride helped build strong teeth. It has appeared in municipal water since then.
Distilled. Distilled water is basically nothing more than hydrogen and oxygen molecules – formed through a process that turns water to steam, then back to water again, eliminating the minerals, salt, calcium, iron and other materials… not to mention the flavor. Distilled water comes in bottles although do-it-yourself systems exist for the home.
Today, most Americans are concerned about the quality of the water they drink. This concern is relatively new to North America: for thousands of years, Native Americans lived by reliable fresh water sources. Not so for the settlers. They considered fresh water dangerous, a perspective rooted in paranoia and the realities of poor water-drinking decisions. Said Jamestown resident George Percy, “cold water [was] taken out of the River, which was at a floud verie salt, at a low tide full of slime and filth, which was the destruction of many of our men.”
Instead, they favored fermented libations, primarily cider and beer, made from corn, wheat, oats, persimmons, and green cornstalks. Lest we be a nation of inebriated half-wits, some inhabitants found safe drinking water by digging shallow wells. The first bottled water was served about 100 years later at Jackson Spa in Boston for therapeutic purposes. This more or less launched what is now a $100 billion industry worldwide. Flash forward another hundred years and treated public waters systems were cropping up in some cities, leading to the tap water millions of Americans consume today.
So, which is better, tap or bottled? Let’s start with tap: it’s readily available and inexpensive, if not free. It flows from water sources that must adhere to strict regulations, more so than bottled water. Still, while tap water is as safe, if not safer, than bottled water, approximately 10% of the supply nationwide is contaminated. The all-important flavor may came from the water or, more likely, the pipes which can be new and sparkling or, in some cases, a century old.
As for bottled water: the flavor is predictable and the color reassuringly clear. Bottled water also has high grab-and-go appeal. Still, the FDA considers bottled water low on their priority spectrum and requirements are limited making the contents unreliable. Then there’s the environmental concerns; a typical 16-ounce plastic water bottle creates more than 100 times as much air and water pollution as one made of glass. Further about 3.8 million tons of plastic are used each year to make water bottles – only about 31% gets recycled. The rest wind up in landfills. Ironically, some bottled water, such as Nestles’ Pure Life water or Coca-Cola’s Dasani, actually originate from the tap.
So, which is best? Bottle or tap? Maybe both: bad tasting or impure tap water can be modified with a home filtration system while bottled water can come in 5 gallon returnable water bottles limiting environmental damage. You can also buy a reusable water bottle or flask and fill it with the water of your choice. The options are numerous and, for the most part, in good taste