What does water taste like?

By Bob Fear

What does water taste like?

We all have our own particular tastes and we can be more sensitive to some flavours than others. Taste is subjective. While some people say they don’t like the taste of water, others might say it has no taste at all. So, aside from personal preferences and opinions, does water have a taste? If so, what is it like? We find out…

How do our taste buds work?

We all have taste sensors on our tongues that can pick up five different taste qualities: bitter, sweet, sour, salty and umami. Yes, umami’s a thing. It basically means savoury. In 2017, scientists found that water triggered our sour sensors. So, it’s official - water tastes sour.

Those same scientists also figured that our taste buds send a signal to our brains to drink more water when we taste it to stay healthily hydrated. We need it to stay alive. This is similar to the way the taste of something bitter might cause us to spit it out as a warning to our brains that it might be harmful.

This research led the scientists to declare that water should be considered the sixth taste. They believe it should be up there with the others as our reflex action is to spit it out if our taste buds detect contaminants that shouldn't be there. While this makes perfect sense, saying that water is a taste in itself doesn’t really help us figure out how to describe that taste. So while those clever scientists might say that the taste of water simply is ‘water’, we’ll go with the existing evidence that tells us that the taste of water is basically sour. Fact.

Why does some water taste different to others?

Water from different sources may taste different due to the amount of naturally occurring minerals dissolved in it. ‘Soft’ water will usually come from surface water - rivers, ponds and lakes filled with rainwater - before it’s treated at your nearest water works and sent through the network of pipes. ‘Hard’ water comes from groundwater. Groundwater is filtered through porous underground rocks like chalk and limestone, so there’ll be more minerals floating around in it - like calcium, potassium and magnesium. However, if groundwater has only passed through non-porous rock, like granite, it can stay soft.

Some people can taste when their water is hard, and while the dissolved minerals are good for our health, different balances of them may alert our sensitive taste buds. So you might prefer a more magnesium flavoured water than you would a sodium flavoured variety. Or, like most of us, not really be able to tell which is which.

Why does my water taste weird?

Aside from all of the naturally occurring healthy minerals, there may also be other elements lurking in your tap water that really shouldn’t be there. Remember all those pipes that your tap water has to travel through to get to your home or workplace? Chances are they run for miles and miles between you and your nearest water treatment plant. Chances are that your mains water might pick up tiny bits of dirt and rust in some of those old Victorian pipes. Nowadays there’s also an increasing likelihood of those pesky microplastics contaminating your supply as well.

Aside from those nasty blighters ruining what should be a pure, fresh taste that tells your brain to drink more, the water treatment plant would also have added chlorine into the mix. Low levels of chlorine are added to disinfect your tap water and stop bacteria growing in it. Potentially harmful bacteria love still, warm water, so, given the chance, it will quickly multiply. But some people can taste the chlorine in their tap water, which isn’t very nice at all.

The longer your tap water sits in the pipes or sits in a glass or bottle once poured, the more likely it is that the chlorine will stop working and bacteria will begin to grow. Water can quickly go off and taste stale, with all manner of wee organic beasties having a right old party in there.

Why does bottled water taste better than tap water?

Bottled mineral or spring water will have all the potentially nasty contaminants removed and just have the perfect balance of natural healthy stuff. So lots of people prefer to drink water from a bottle they’ve bought rather than from their tap, especially if that bottle’s nice and chilled to make it more refreshing and quench our thirst more efficiently.

But there are huge, great, massive downsides to buying bottled water:

1) It’s expensive. If we all drink our recommended amount of water a day (around 1.5 litres), a family of four consuming six litres of water will need to spend around £18 a week, based on the average cost of a litre of bottled water being 43p. That’s about £72 a month. Which is £864 a year. Surely there’s a cheaper way to enjoy pure, healthy water packed with essential minerals? Yes, there is. We’ll come to that in a bit…

2) It’s destroying the planet. You might be aware of the plastic pollution problem. Buying water in a single-use plastic bottle isn’t helping. 91% of plastic water bottles aren’t recycled. You could be adding over half a ton of plastic waste every year to the growing piles.

Even if you are in the minority of those who do recycle plastic water bottles, you’re still adding to the recycling burden that’s also proving damaging. Even PET plastic bottles can only be recycled so many times, and that process is now so expensive, as well as time and labour intensive, that some local authorities are burning their plastic waste instead. And that’s still no good for the planet.

3) It’s bad for our health. Despite the water itself being good for us, microplastic remnants of PET bottles are now being found in our blood, lungs and digestive systems for the first time. Tests revealed that 93% of bottled water shows 'some sign of microplastic contamination'. Twice as many microplastics were found in the systems of those who drank more bottled water.

So why are we still buying bottled water? Because it tastes nice. But there is another way…

How to get chilled, filtered water on tap at home or work

You might have guessed that we were coming to this. But yes, it’s true. Virgin Pure enables you to enjoy great-tasting triple-filtered water, perfectly chilled or piping hot, all at the touch of a button.

●The Virgin Pure water dispenser removes all the nasties that shouldn’t be in your drinking water - from chlorine, to scale, to bacteria, to microplastics, and more

●Our system cleverly leaves in all the essential healthy minerals naturally found in pure water

●Your Virgin Pure machine will dispense your water at whatever temperature you prefer, from chilled to boiling. There are over 50 different temperature settings for you to choose from, meaning that you can ditch your kettle as well as your clunky old filter jug.

●The cost per week of Virgin Pure in the first three years of ownership works out at £4.78 1. The cost per week of bottled water for a family of four consuming six litres of water a day (our recommended daily fluid intake is around 1.5 litres a day) is £18.06 2. Nearly four times as much. You could save more than £2000 over three years.

1. Based on initial cost of purchase plus monthly subscription price for full replacements and servicing

2. Average cost per litre based on 6 x 1.5l bottle pack, best selling 3 on ocado.com 14/2/2022

So, to find out what water should taste like, try it the Virgin Pure way.

Sources:

https://www.healthline.com/health/does-water-have-a-taste

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/water-flavour-sour-taste-scientists-caltech-university-mice-tongues-a7774766.html
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/mar/24/microplastics-found-in-human-blood-for-first-time

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/apr/06/microplastics-found-deep-in-lungs-of-living-people-for-first-time

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2022/mar/24/why-are-we-burning-our-recycling-video

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.1c03924

https://news.sky.com/story/microplastics-found-in-nearly-all-bottled-water-study-11290266Earthday.org
Plasticoceans.org

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