Can you tell bottled water from tap?

SINGAPORE - Water is the source of life.

After all, 70 per cent of our body is made up of water.

The clear liquid is often taken for granted. It used to be just what came out of the tap.

There is of course a variety of bottled water available these days. Many people prefer these to plain old tap water.

But is there a difference? For example, does packaging and the idea of mountain spring water from overseas play a bigger part in our choices?

The New Paper on Sunday decided to take a blind taste test of various bottled water on the market -and included a glass of HDB tap water - to see if our panel could tell the difference between them.

All the drinks were served in the same type of cup, unlabelled and at room temperature to let the flavour - if any - flow.

Panel: Yeoh Wee Teck, Hedy Khoo, Benita Aw Yeong and Jonathan Roberts

San Benedetto Naturale

From: Italy
Comes in a funky bulbous blue bottle.
Price: $2 for 1.5L
Comments: The panel described this water as slightly salty, too flat to a little like tap water.

Dasani

From: The Coca-Cola Company Drinking water with ubiquitous presence in Singapore.
Price: 45 cents for 600ml
Comments: One panellist's instant reaction was "not nice". Another took this to be the tap water.

Ice Mountain

From: F&N
The label boasts that it is "Singapore's No. 1 drinking water".
Price: 95 cents for 1.5L
Comments: One panellist thought this was the tap water. The others mostly said it tasted like a basic bottled water. Clean on the palate.

Tap water

From: Your very own tap
Price: Free (almost, for what you drink)
Comments: Amazingly, three from the panel described it as sweet and with a sweet fragrance. One stood out describing it as "muddy". The results shocked the entire panel. Can tap water have so much flavour?

Fiji Natural Artesian Water

From: The islands of Fiji.
This pricey drink is apparently filtered through volcanic rock.
Price: $2.95 for 1L
Comments: Despite a couple of Fiji fans on the panel, its flavour did not impress. One said it was smoother on the tongue. Also described as "fresh smelling". One commented that it reminded him of sulphur.

Evian

From: France
One of the most established names in bottled mineral water.
Price: $2.40 for 1L
Comments: One panellist, who usually avoids this brand, was surprised that he thought it was good. Another said it "feels expensive".

Harrogate Spring Water

From: Yorkshire, UK
Harrogate is one of the UK's original spa towns that prides itself on the quality of its water.
Price: $1 for 1.5L
Comments: No fans for the UK water here. All blasted the taste and scent. Words like dull and stinky were used. After the reveal, one asked: "It's from a spa town? Did they bathe in it first?"

Mizu Hi-O2

From: Malaysia
This drinking water has a high oxygen content, which is said to be better for you. "Good for in/outdoor activities". So that's... good for everything then?
Price: $1 for 500ml
Comments: "Clean. Too clean," one panellist wrote rather suspiciously. Another found it "quite nice".

Volvic

From: France
The label even has a small graphic to show how many minerals it gets from its volcanic source.
Price: $2.40 for 1.5L
Comments: This was clearly a mineral water, but water fatigue may have started to set into the panel. One panellist, a regular Volvic drinker, did not recognise the brand by taste, even saying he did not like the aftertaste.

Pere Ocean

From: Malaysia
The label has the words "Singapore's favourite mineral water".
Price: 40 cents for 550ml
Comments:
There was a bit of face pulling once it was drunk. It may be Singapore's favourite, but not the panel's.

Verdict:

Nobody guessed the tap water. Some fans even turned against their favoured brand. There was no clear favourite, but it's doubtful any of the panel members will go to Harrogate for their water.

Prices may vary depending on seller.

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