The Goddess Speaks
Water taste-test judge drowns in indecision
THE average person has 10,000 taste buds, giving us all an equal opportunity to discern sweet from sour, bitter from salty.
I am convinced, however, that some people have taste buds that are taller, wider or more directly connected to the brain than, say, mine.
This became clear last week when I helped judge the Board of Water Supply's annual Ono Water Contest. My suggestion: If you are ever asked to do this, run away, unless you want to flounder cluelessly onstage in front of a lot of water geeks.
The exception would be if you are among those who have those extra-tall, wide taste buds. For example, if you are a wine geek, you are safe here.
The Ono Water Contest is held during the American Waterworks Association conference, undoubtedly to provide relief from such heady topics as "Implications of the Newly Promulgated Stage 2 Disinfectant Byproduct Rule (S2DBPR) for Water Systems in Hawaii."
The idea is to judge samples from wells around the state, anointing one as the best. Sometimes the water is from military or resort properties; this time it was from regular drinking-water systems on various islands. In 2001, in a major shocker, a carpetbagger sample from New Zealand actually won.
Anyway, various good citizens are asked to be judges. Celebrity is a greater qualifier than knowledge: One year, organizer Kumar Bhagavan told me, they lined up all the TV weathercasters.
But this year, Kumar lined up a couple of wine geeks: Lyle Fujioka of Fujioka Wine Times and Robert Viernes of Southern Wines and Spirits, who is also a master sommelier, which is as titled as you can get in the wine world.
These are guys who, in a blind tasting, can identify wines by name, year, type of soil the grapes grew in and how much sun they got while in the soil (as for me, I was there because Lyle dragged me along).
Eight water samples were served to us in wine glasses. Our first instruction was to compare them by look. Are you kidding? They all looked like water.
"I'm not going by looks," Roberto told me. "Nobody looks at their water unless it's turbid."
Then we smelled and tasted.
"Do we spit?" Roberto asked.
"That's what I was going to ask," Lyle said.
I told them not to.
They smelled, tasted and wrote copious notes. I pretended. Because, you know, except for a couple that smelled slightly of chlorine, they all tasted like water.
"Nice, soft, quite pure," Roberto wrote about one. "Pungent, chlorine, chalky," about another. How does he do that? (You'd think I would be better at this, seeing as I write about food for a living, but you'd be wrong.)
Lyle and Roberto were pretty much in agreement, so I just voted for what they were voting for. Luckily, no cash prizes were at stake.
For the record, the winning water was from the Nonou Well in Kapaa, Kauai.
It was good, I think.
Betty Shimabukuro is the Star-Bulletin Features editor.
The Goddess Speaks is a feature column by and about women. If you have something to say, write "The Goddess Speaks," 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210,
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