The Great Torontoist Challenge: Water Edition

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The Great Torontoist Challenge: Water Edition

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Photo by Word Freak.
Water, it would appear as of late, is most oft discussed within the realms of the environmental and the geopolitical; and rightfully so. Landfills, drought, and container concerns aside, we, weak humanoids that we are, still need to stay hydrated, and if we’re not at home, we often buy the bottled stuff. We here at Torontoist figured, well, you might as well know which one to go for.

The Contestants

  • Real Canadian Natural Spring Water. Owned by Loblaws and sourced in Grey County, Ontario, there is little other information available about this contestant. Mysterious.
  • Dasani. The “Coke” of the water world—no, not in the Costner sense—Dasani is actually just tap water from Calgary that is filtered using reverse osmosis, then re-filled with three different sorts of salt, including one of our personal, all-time, favourites—Epsom.
  • Evian. The true original bottled water, the one that started it all in that fun-loving year of 1789, Evian does, to this day, still spell Naïve when written backwards. Get it? Word play as social commentary—original and insightful.
  • Toronto Tap Water. Sourced from scenic Lake Ontario, Toronto Tap Water is available, for a fee, in every single household in this city. Convenient!

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The Criteria

  • Appearance. Is it clear or cloudy? Does it have finger floating in it?
  • Odour. Is there one at all? Or does it smell of chlorine? Sulphur? Irish bog?
  • Flavour. Does it have a clean taste? Or is it straight out of a ditch next to a paper mill?
  • Mouth feel. Is it refreshing on the palate? Is it gritty, bubbly or stale?
  • Aftertaste. Thirst quenching? Residue-y? Does it make you do a “gah” face?

Additional Criteria

Obviously, the prices of these, other than the good ole Toronto drop, will vary depending on where you go.
Evian ($2.19 per 1.5 litre); Dasani ($1.59 per 1.5 litre); Real Canadian Natural Spring Water ($0.79 per 1.5 litre); Toronto Tap Water (0.27 cents per 1.5 litre).

Results

  • Appearance. Toronto Tap—11/15. It was clear, with no visible bits or carbonation.
  • Odour. TIE: Evian, Dasani and Real Canadian—12.5/15. None of these contestants had a smell. One judge thought he discerned a faint mustiness, but later concluded that was most likely the scent of his own nose fully submersed in his tasting glass.
  • Flavour. Dasani—24/30. As per one of our panel, if we could taste the ozone layer, it would taste like this. Granted, we’d be dead, but we wouldn’t be dehydrated.
  • Mouth feel. Dasani—12/15. We can only say that, somehow, Dasani has managed to feel wetter than water. No, really.
  • After taste. Dasani—11.5/15. Refreshing, with a lingering wateriness.

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Conclusions

While it looked exactly as water should, and it was, from what we could discern, completely odourless, Real Canadian Natural Spring Water fell completely short. An unnecessarily long name being the least of its worries, this water tasted stagnant and left our panel with a distinct dry feeling. That’s right, this water, somehow, isn’t actually wet enough. This could be due to high mineral concentrations, or perhaps, for all we know, the spring at Grey County is actually just a wee puddle now and these are the stale left-over bits. Speaking of Grey County, we couldn’t help but note that the label of this contestant features a blue-hued Rocky-like mountain range, which, if our memories of geography serve us correctly, are highly suspect within this particular province. If you find yourself in some sort of situation where you’re really thirsty, and you have the option between this, and let’s say, a water fountain that you have to share with a pigeon, you might be better off, even just in terms of basic hydration, to go with the pigeon-water. It’d be cheaper, too.
Knocked off its gilded pedestal, dewy-skinned starlets the world over no longer need to worry about being wasteful in pouring this water into the tub instead of into their mouths. Evian, with its illustrious history, is still tasty water, but with so many cheaper, and to be honest, better tasting alternatives, we just don’t see a need for the fuss, though the bottle was, hands down, the prettiest. We suppose one of the intrinsic characteristics of spring water is that it’s going to be chock-a-block with minerally goodness. In some cases, such as Grey County’s offering, this makes for a rather unfortunate experience; with Evian, it’s not unpleasant, but it really tastes like hard water, which may be quite off-putting for some consumers. Definitely refreshing, quite clear, and not in the least bit bubbly, Evian is still just too dear for what it is. If you really want French water, go and dip a cup in the Seine for free. Actually, no, that probably isn’t a good idea.
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Clockwise from top left: Dasani, Real Canadian, Toronto Tap, and Evian.
Toronto Tap Water had an unfair advantage in this challenge. On top of its ridiculously affordable price, we found ourselves faced with the strange conundrum that the only way to wash out our glasses after each entry was to use one of the other contestants. Toronto Tap pours like a dream, unclouded and unsullied by floaties. The faint hint of unidentifiable organics, which lost it points in the odour department, along with its metallic flavour, are easily justified by where it comes from and how it got into our glass—first the lake and then through metal piping. An excellent mouth feel, really clean and balanced, and a finish that was described by some as slightly sweet, this water was refreshing and completely worth the 0.27 cents. While it didn’t come out wearing the tiara, Toronto Tap Water is a worthy foe to any of its bottled brethren.
In what may be the biggest upset of any of our challenges thus far, the winner, by 2.5 points, is Dasani. From its humble beginnings in Cowtown, Dasani is cleaned, topped up with what Coke feels are the most important minerals, then poured into bottles and, from what we can tell, pressurized to the brink of carbonation. We tried shaking the other bottles before opening them in an attempt to create similar fizz and verify it as a normal trait for bottled water, but found that no, it’s not. So, why did Dasani win? Because, while it may have lost out in appearance, it cleaned up in every other category. The flavour was clean, and as discussed previously, had a certain pleasant something that our panel could only describe as “ozone-like.” It was very slippery in the mouth, which, we suppose, could seem sinister, but was instead very enjoyable. Water is meant to be wet, and this was hands down the wettest; we were left feeling refreshed and hydrated.
While numbers don’t lie, and we have to honour that Dasani did in fact come out on top, we still feel that with some foresight and planning, bottled water purchasing can be avoided without compromising extensively on taste. If you know you’ll be out, then just bring some Toronto Tap to go. It may not be quite as tasty as Dasani, nor as fizzy, but it’s a lot better than many of the options in the cooler case. Failing that, I’ve heard pigeons are often willing to share.
Photos of our contestants by Julie Reitsma.

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