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What’s “Water sommelier”?

The perk of this job is that I’m always extra hydrated,” water sommelier John Zhu tells CNN.

One of just a handful of water sommeliers in China, Zhu has made a profession out of tasting water and offering his expertise to hotels and restaurants across Asia.

People often ask me, doesn’t all water taste the same?” Zhu said.

Although water might seem like a nondescript beverage, Zhu says different minerals give each variation its own unique characteristics.

Water is just like wine, the sources and minerals determine the taste,” he says. “If the water has a lot of calcium, it tastes sweet and chalky. If it’s rich in magnesium, it tastes metallic. If it contains sodium, it tastes salty.”

"Because the production volume is so small, water producers can't achieve economy of scale," he explains.

The price of luxury water might come as a shock to industry newbies. A bottle of Norway’s Lofoten Water, sourced from the Lofoten Islands in the Arctic Circle, can set you back $80.

Zhu explains that just because a water is expensive, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better.

The price of water typically depends on origin — and whether the extraction point is isolated from any human activity.


If there’s no infrastructure near the source, companies must invest heavily in roads, electricity, piping, waste management and factories. Then there’s the high cost of transportation and production.

“Therefore, the price will be more expensive than the water sold to the mass market.”