There is more to water than just being a precious commodity. Water has different flavours and components that makes it an intriguing study. Water naturally contains minerals and nutrients however bottled water companies remove these beneficial elements through “purifying” processes. Lakshitaa Khanna, India’s first female water sommelier has learnt everything she can about the varying flavours, textures and other properties of water, which are in fact rather complex.
Khanna, who has also designed a brand of mineral water – Bodh, was invited on The Navhind Times’ Talk from the Heart show which aired on the Goa 365 channel on Sunday, June 12 where she spoke about her unconventional profession, the importance of going back to the source and shared her knowledge of this concealed art form.
With just 50-odd water sommeliers the world over, a career in this profession is unheard of and Khanna encounters varied responses when she explains her job. “Mostly the initial reaction is of astonishment and disbelief. The most common reaction I get is, ‘Are you kidding me, does something like that exist?’ This is because unlike wine or whisky sommeliers, water sommeliers are unheard of,” she shared.
As natural resources are becoming contaminated or drying up, a safe water supply is a precious, even scarce, commodity for many people. Hence, in a country like us, a water sommelier definitely stands out. But Khanna believes that her efforts to instil greater understanding about conservation and informed consumption in the urban consumer will eventually have a widespread impact. Also with the focus on mindfulness especially around food, she believes the shift will lead to a stronger consciousness around the nutritional content, quality and sources of the water that we drink. “I want to reach out to all sections of society,” she explained. “And though this talk I hope to answer and clarify the doubts that people have about water and this profession.“
So what exactly does a water sommelier do? “He/she detects, differentiate and recognise the different types of water across the globe. And this is all based on the TDS, pH levels, etcetera,” explained Khanna. Debunking the myth that water is tasteless and odourless liquid, she then expounded on the different types and sources of water. “From sweetish to strongly mineralised, fine mineral waters come in many flavours. Waters can also be naturally or artificially carbonated. Those originating from volcanic origins tend to be naturally carbonated and have a high sodium content that influences their taste. These are generally light and have effervescent bubbles. Other waters have high or neutral pH balance, which again leads to differences in taste as some may be acidic and others, alkaline,” she elaborated.
A common mistake most of us make, is confusing bottled water with mineral or fine water. Bottled water, she explained, is water that has gone through a filtration process which removes germs and bacteria from the ground. “However, this process also removes most of the minerals and nutrients that are present in the water, and sustained use of bottled water can lead to mineral deficiencies in the body,” she added.
Natural mineral waters or “fine waters” on the hand are bottled at the source and are mostly from ancient spa towns. “They spring from ancient aquifers or come from sources that are untouched by human hands; they carry the goodness of the earth as they make their way through nature’s course, till they are bottled for human consumption,” she explained.
Giving a few tips on how to best enjoy water, she said, “Water is tastier when not chilled and is kept at room temperature. One of the most common mistakes that people make is to drink water too cold. Ice is bad for water.” Another tip she shared was to never put water from different sources into the same glass as this could interfere with the taste. “Also, lemon should never be used in water at tastings or pairings as it is considered by experts to be the arch-enemy of water,” she added.
She also spoke about food and water pairing especially with Goan food.