The Daily Meal Tap Water Taste Test
This is one in a series of stories; visit The Daily Meal Special Report: Water for more.
We New Yorkers are famously proud of our city, and that pride is never more apparent (some might call it arrogant) than in our unshakable belief in New York’s primacy in food and drink. The people of New York are convinced that Gotham is the best food city in the world, and we’re known to boastfully proclaim that New York produces the best pizza, the best bagels, the best cheesecake, the best… well, anything and everything that we can possibly lay claim to. New Yorkers are so proud of our dining culture that it would not be a surprise if a few of us claimed that the best Kentucky-style barbeque is actually found in some far-off corner of Queens. While some of our claims might be a bit of a reach, we do have plenty of evidence to back up our status as one of the best towns for food and drink.
Historically, this pride has extended from our restaurant scene all the way to our kitchen sinks: For years, New Yorkers have boasted that the city’s tap water is the most delicious in the country. We think it’s so good, in fact, that a company was actually bottling the stuff and selling it right back to New Yorkers (cue the ice to Eskimos joke). But while a variety of awards and taste tests have confirmed that New York has at least a reasonable claim to the best pizza, bagels, and cheesecake, the assertion of best tap water has been mere buzz, with very little hard evidence — yet. And so we thought that it would be really interesting if someone could prove — or disappointingly disprove — whether New York really does hold the number one spot in tap water taste, compared to other major cities around the country.
But who in their right minds would actually sit down and sample 10 different cities’ tap waters? Why, The Daily Meal’s editorial staff, naturally.
We procured 10 samples of tap water around the country, mailing large-sized glass Ball jars as the vessels (glass was used to avoid that weird, vaguely carcinogenic-tasting yuck that can seep into water from plastic containers, especially in the summer heat). We requested that the jars be filled by submersion in a clean vat of water straight from the faucet, so that there were no air bubbles that might disrupt the flavor. To create a fair study, we took the New York tap water (from our studio kitchen) and filled our own mason jar with it and set it aside with the rest we were collecting, so that the New York water was no fresher than the rest.
Then we created a double-blind test and took the task as seriously as one can: the tasters were brought into a room in which small glasses of tap water were laid out on numbered mats, and they had no way of knowing which tap water corresponded to which city. They proceeded to sip and discuss the quality of each water, much in the manner of tasting a fine wine — omitting the little silver spittoon.
#10 Los Angeles
Everyone we know in Los Angeles will be absolutely unsurprised by this result. The tap water there is not exactly lauded — Angelenos frequently complain about it, and if our study determines anything, it’s that they all have a reason to be sipping bottled or filtered. Our panel was unanimously disappointed by the flavor of this tap water, all of them commenting on the city’s “swimming pool water.” When chlorine is the overwhelming flavor — and scent — of a water, it earns ratings like these: on a scale of 60-100, not one panelist ranked Los Angeles over a 63. Maybe this is a trade-off for that perfect weather you guys like to brag about?
Also low on the list was Cleveland’s tap water, although for very different reasons than L.A.’s. Rather than tasting like a swimming pool, most of our testers thought the Forest City’s water tasted “briney,” “vegetal,” and “like algae.” Sorry, Cleveland: your brackish swamp water is decidedly not up our alley.
Jess Novak is the Drink Editor of The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @jesstothenovak