Strictly speaking, water isn’t supposed to taste of anything – but minerals like calcium carbonate, chemicals like chlorine and even dissolved gases can play a big role in the flavour of the water that comes out of your tap. Recently, BBC News investigated what people think water tastes like in areas all over the country, with some interesting results.
While most of us think we drink the same water every day, in fact tap water comes from two main sources – surface water from lakes and rivers, which tends to have fewer minerals and is slightly acidic, and groundwater which is usually harder. However, water suppliers often deliver a mixture of the two, meaning hardness and chemical content can vary from one day to the next.
BBC News carried out blind taste tests of water from places all over the UK, pressing wine expert Melanie Reeve, coffee entrepreneur Jeremy Challender and scientist Mindy Dulai into service as judges. Water from Bristol was said to have a “peppery aftertaste”, Hassocks in West Sussex’s water has a “hint of seaweed” while Langtoft in Lincolnshire was dubbed “very alkaline – not good water for coffee”. Coventry’s water received the highest score overall.
However, Glasgow University’s water engineer Professor Paul Younger said it’s all a matter of taste – or more accurately, what the drinker is used to. “ Whichever way around it is – from hard to soft or soft to hard, there are always people who ring up to complain about the different tastes,” he said. Professor Younger added: “People are most likely to kick off about the taste of water if they live near a treatment plant. What they are tasting is the residual disinfectant [chlorine], which is needed for water to stay potable.”
One thing the UK tends to agree on is that soft water makes the best tea – this is because the lack of any mineral hardness leaves the flavours of the brew free to come out to their fullest. If you enjoy a good cuppa, why not find out more about the other benefits of softened water?