When we think of flavorless, the classic example is water. Berries are sweet; mushrooms are umami; collards are bitter. But water? As Popular Science so eloquently puts it:
“For thousands of years, philosophers claimed that water had no flavor. It’s the baseline for the sense of taste, they said—a starting point and null condition. What water is to tongues, darkness is to eyes and silence is to ears. ‘The natural substance water per se tends to be tasteless,’ wrote Aristotle.”
Aristotle Was Wrong
Despite the eloquence of pretty much everything Aristotle ever wrote, the statement itself is far from true. We humans have pretty sensitive tongues, and can detect a huge array of flavors, even very subtle ones. As it turns out, water is full of such subtle flavors.
For instance, calcium. This is a very common mineral found dissolved in water. As reported in Live Science, our tongues are sensitive enough to taste calcium; in fact, we have actual receptors for them. Those are specific taste buds dedicated to detecting specific flavors such as salty or sweet … and now, calcium-y. A dry, coating sensation can usually be felt from waters that are rich in Calcium.
Though at higher levels it becomes harsh and bitter, it’s quite pleasant in water. Clearly water isn’t just a blank slate.
Water can give you other clues as well. If it’s full of harsh rotten-egg flavor, that means there’s too much hydrogen sulfide in it. While sulfur itself isn’t bad for you, the strong flavor can indicate that you’re picking up too much of the pipe lining on the way out of the tap – and that’s not good.
Other aquatic clues? Mineral water has a good name for a reason. While you might think de-mineralized water was the most favored, that’s not true. People actually prefer water with the right balance of natural salts and ions.
Visit www.jessicaaltieri.com/water-sommelier to learn more.