Growing up in Singapore, Sam Wu remembers drinking boiled tap water that filtered through a brownish sock wrapped over the faucet. Today, he is tasting the world’s finest waters as a sommelier accredited by both the Doemens Academy and Fine Water Academy.
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He started out at Doemens Academy in Germany in 2018, studying chemistry and water tasting as part of its Water Sommelier course. He went on to pursue an online Water Sommelier Certification course by Fine Water Academy, founded by pioneer water sommeliers Martin Riese and Michael Mascha.
Inspired, he set up The Water Sommelier earlier this year, to spread the word about natural mineral water. He is also looking at importing the best waters from Europe and around the world. ”My aim is for people to be able to look at a bottle of water and know exactly what they are getting.”
While olive oil has colour and flavour, water can confer emotion, says Mr Wu – even shock. He recalls a bizarre experience of static shock opening a bottle of Serbia’s Tesla Voda, the world’s first electric ‘interactive’ alkaline water. ”It was great fun,” laughs the 29- year-old.
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He explains that the fundamental way to classify water is to differentiate between what is natural and machine-purified water.
Water gets its taste, texture and health properties from naturally occurring minerals (such as calcium, magnesium or sodium) measured in units of mg per litre, and so is classified according to the mineral levels.
Anything less than 50mg is considered very low. A high mineral content range would be 800mg to 1500mg, and anything above that is considered very high. Medium minerality would range from 250mg to 800mg.
‘Natural Mineral Water’ is the highest form of certification Europe awards to bottled water. To earn this, the water has to be as pure as it is at the source, and not have undergone any kind of purification to alter its mineral content.
The water with the lowest mineral content he has come across is ISBRE, a Norwegian natural mineral glacier water with just 4mg per litre – the lowest for any natural mineral water in the world. Donut Mg, from Rogaska, Slovenia, is on the other extreme with 13,197mg.
His favourite is Krondorf, a luxury water from the Czech Republic. Naturally sparkling, it’s rich in minerals, full-bodied and savoury in taste.
The vocabulary for describing water can be limited. ”There’s no smell and if there is, it’s likely an off-flavour. It’s predominantly tastebased and limited to sweet, sour, salty, bitter.”
Worldwide, English-speaking water sommeliers like Mr Wu are few and far in between, numbering 500 at most, with no other known Singaporeans in the field. But that might all change if he gets his way, as he is setting up South East Asia’s first Water Sommelier Certification programme accredited by Doemens Academy. And before long, you might find yourself being asked, ”Would you like water with your meal?”
This article was originally published in The Business Times.