28th Annual International Water Tasting Held in Berkeley Springs

The Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting, the world’s most prestigious and longest-running water tasting, gave out awards late Saturday night to waters from three continents. All five continents had waters among the nearly 100 entries.

Last year, a record 102 waters were entered from 19 states, 12 countries, 5 provinces, and 9 West Virginia cities.  A newcomer from Oklahoma, Catt Springs, entered and won one event. One of the event’s founder, Jeanne Mozier, was particularly impressed by a new state entry.

“Now there are only three states left that have never entered,” she said.  “And the folks from Catt Springs actually drove here to be at the event.  They are debuting their bottled water.”

Organizers said the municipal water category was a “battle of champions,” with the water judged best in the world for 2018—Clearbrook, British Columbia, Canada being the biggest medal winner in the event’s history.  The best water in the USA is Santa Ana, Calif., another former gold medalist.  The silver was won by the City of Hamilton, Ohio.  Mission Springs Water District, Desert Hot Springs, California, won bronze.  Fourth place was El Dorado Springs, Colorado, and Independence, Missouri, placed fifth.

“The consistency in winners from year to year with different panels of judges validates the choices,” remarked Watermaster, Arthur von Wiesenberger.  “It also speaks to the impressively high caliber of the waters entered.” 

The Best Bottled Water title paid tribute to both love and hope.  The gold medal winner was Frequency H2O, Major Creek, Queensland, Australia, which is infused with the frequency of love. The silver went to famous Mountain Valley Springs Water, Hot Springs, Arkansas.  A tie for bronze included Hope Natural Spring Water, Halifax County, Virginia, and Jackson Springs Natural Premium Spring Water, Marchand, Manitoba, Canada.  Finishing the line-up were Svalbaroi Polar Iceberg Water, Longyearbyen, Norway in 4th place, and Dioni, Epirus, Greece in 5th. 

The audience was filled with water enthusiasts coming from as far as Australia and Oklahoma. Twelve media judges spent hours tasting and selecting from waters sourced in 15 states, 4 Canadian provinces, and 9 foreign countries.
“There were waters from four new countries this year: Turkey, Cyprus, Jamaica and Trinidad-Tabago,” said Jeanne Mozier, an event founder. “They joined waters from Korea, Bosnia, Greece and Australia.”

Sparkling waters are sourced from four continents.  Gold medal winner was Antipodes Sparkling Water, Whakatane, New Zealand, and silver was Touch Sparkling Mineral Water, Marchand, Manitoba, Canada.  Bronze was KOPU, another New Zealand water that came in a glamorous turquoise metal container.  Fourth was a perennial winner, Tesanjski Kiseljak, Tesanj, Bosnia, and fifth was Castle Rock Sparkling Water, Dunsmuir, California.

Purified waters are a fairly new addition to the water world, with municipal systems often bottling their water.  This year’s winner is a newcomer to the event.  Ken Guoin was in the audience when his Ophora Water from Santa Barbara, California was announced as the gold.  Last year’s winner, GP8 Oxygen Alkaline Water, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, won the silver.  The top five included two from West Virginia and were: Rain Fresh Oxygen-Rich Purified Water, Garland, Texas in third, Lesage Water, Lesage, West Virginia, in fourth, and in a tie for fifth – Berkeley Springs Purified Water, Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, and Hamilton On Tap, Hamilton, Ohio.

The crowd was interested in two Peoples’ Choice categories—the category in which the general public can vote.  The Packaging category had 10 entrants competing for Most Alluring.  Last year’s winner, Svalbaroi Polar Iceberg Water from Longyearbyen, Norway, won the gold again.  The newcomer Catt Springs won the silver.  Antipodes from New Zealand was third. 

Flavored Essence Sparkling Water was a new category for a new product and had three entrants.  They scored only two points apart with the winner: Icy Blue Lemon from Marchand, Manitoba, Canada.

Conclusion of the daylong water tasting is the famed “Water Rush” where the audience is invited to take home hundreds of bottles of water sent as part of the judging.  

“My team and I spent about six hours arranging all the waters in a display,” said Mozier.  “The crowd spent less than ten minutes making it all disappear. It’s like a Tibetan sand mandala. I was pleased to see our favorite couple from Brooklyn in the rush.  Peter and Cynthia Lloyd come every year especially for the water tasting – and the rush.” 
The twelve media judges selected by Klein Rone included representatives from various regional and national media including television and online magazines.  They were instructed by von Wiesenberger to look, sniff and taste each water under guidelines similar to those in a wine tasting. The waters were rated for each attribute including appearance (it should be clear—or slightly opaque for glacial waters), aroma (there should be none), taste (it should taste clean), mouth feel (it should feel light), aftertaste (it should leave you thirsty for more). Waters were tasted in four separate flights over two days.

“The judges’ job is crucial, and so is their training,” said Mozier.  “We present all our judges with a diploma designating them as a Certified Water Taster.” 

“It was another wonderful year for the longest running and largest water tasting in the world,” said von Wiesenberger. “Berkeley Springs is the Olympics of water.”  

“Water: Beneath the Surface and Around the Globe,” is the event’s seminar on Friday of the event, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.  The seminar always addresses threats and solutions of drinking water.

Von Wiesenberger first conducted a fireside chat with Jane Lazgin, former Communications Director of Nestlé Waters North America. She started with Nestlé Waters North America as the ninth employee in 1977 when the company was a start-up in New York.  Her responsibilities expanded as the company added 9,000 employees and 14 now-known brands like Poland Spring and Deer Park to name two.

In addition to her “Ask Me Anything” format, Lazgin offered facts that led to a major beverage milestone, and the trends taking bottled water beyond this revolution. Lazgin was one of the featured speakers and talked about the evolution of bottled water from the 19th Century to today, and how it has surpassed bottled carbonated soft drinks in consumption.

Von Wiesenberger also praised the selection of the Lifetime Achievement Award to Lazgin and welcomed participation of the award sponsorship by WaterExpo of Guangzhou, China.

Other speakers included Dr. Terry L. Polen, economic development director and ombudsman with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. His topic was an overview of the state and federal environmental regulations that impact our water.

Project Engineer and Water Management Consultant Dr. Zohreh Y. Movahed and President Ben Movahed of WATEK Engineering Corporation spoke about their experiences all over the globe. Dr. Zohreh Movahed has over 31 years of experience in water resource management, water reuse, contamination, source water protection, and water and sewer infrastructure development. Ben Movahed has 32 years of engineering experience in study, evaluation, design, and construction services for water facility projects.  He has been involved in over 80 advanced treatment technology projects like brackish and seawater desalination and reverse osmosis.

Frostburg State University’s Dr. Jonathan Flood, an Assistant Professor of Geography, discussed fountains of healing, transformation, and clairvoyance in ancient Greece and Italy. The presentation discussed the chemistry of several of the most venerated springs and wells in the Classical world, including the Castalian Spring at Delphi, Greece. He wrote his dissertation on the subject.

“I spent seven years in the Eastern Mediterranean,” said Flood, “going to places of water ritual—ones that are historical, or pre-historic.  I wanted to see if water from healing sanctuaries had any medicinal properties.  I wanted to find out, what’s in the water?  I went to some called Asclepion Centers.  In the Greek and Roman period, if you got sick people would go to the Asclepion Centers.  Asclepius was the god of healing, and the centers were linked to a water source like a spring or well. People would drink it or bathe in it and go to sleep, basically. Asclepius would come and take care of you. I read accounts where people would go for vision problems for example, and then be able to see. I wanted to see what the chemicals in the water were. A number of them had high concentrations of sulfate which is a natural purgative. You drink it and go to the bathroom quickly, flushing you out. Some of the springs were rich in iron. If someone was anemic, they would feel a lot better.”

He also looked at temples of Apollo, or oracle centers, the most famous being Delphi.

Global water expert and dowser, Henry R. Hidell, III, founder of Hidell International. Hidell, held a roundtable type chat on various water topics and recent water disasters.  He asked the panel to return next year. 

The event seminar on Friday and Saturday’s award ceremony were live streamed on the Berkeley Springs, WV Facebook page operated by the Morgan Arts Council’s Digital Media Center.  For more information on Berkeley Springs or its water tasting, call (800) 447-8797 or check the website http://www.berkeleyspringswatertasting.com.   
The 29th annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting is scheduled for Saturday, February 23, 2019.