Jeanne Mozier
Jeanne Mozier

Which City Has the Tastiest Tap Water?

Jeanne Mozier
Jeanne Mozier

The process is similar to a wine competition. Each distinguished judge, dressed in their black-tie best, raises a glass and observes the liquid’s appearance, smelling it, taking a taste, and scoring the flavor, mouthfeel, and aftertaste. But unlike wine, the top scorers in this competition have no color, no odor, and little, if any, flavor.

It’s the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting, which for 25 years has gathered together city officials, bottlers, researchers, and other H20 enthusiasts to spend a weekend celebrating and sampling hydration. What began as a publicity stunt to draw attention to the mineral water spas of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, has evolved into a respected and heavily attended gathering. Forty-six states and 50 countries have submitted entrants over the years; this year’s competition, held in February, saw entrants from as far away as Greece, South Korea, and New Zealand.

Restaurant consultant and former broadcaster Arthur von Wiesenberger helps give the event legitimacy. He began as a connoisseur of champagne and caviar before turning his attention to a healthier product, writing the books A Pocket Guide to Bottled Water and The Taste of Water.

“Tap water varies from state to state, town to town and even tap to tap,” says von Wiesenberger, explaining what attracted him to the substance. “Not all water is created equally.”

He trains the competition’s 10 or so judges, who are usually amateur tasters when they begin. Von Wiesenberger walks them through the unpleasant elements to look for (particles, cloudiness), smell for (chlorine, plastic, sulfur), and taste for (mustiness, salt, chemicals). They also learn what qualities to seek in the event’s other categories, including bottled and purified water.

A judge from the 2014 competition. Image credit: Jeanne Mozier.

But while minimal flavor is important, the top-performing waters have tended to be those that embrace the natural zest of their source. Jeanne Mozier, vice president of Travel Berkeley Springs, which produces the event, pointed to a string of wins from Canadian waters. She attributed the better flavor of those entrants to the fact that Canada is more flexible than the U.S. in treating its municipal water.

“Last year’s winner, Clearbook, B.C., drew their water from a highly protected spring source but didn’t have to follow the cookie-cutter program that says ‘you must put in this and that,’ which destroys the water’s taste,” Mozier says. “Atlantic City won another year, which surprised us, but it was enhanced because the sand naturally filters the water sourced from there.”

This year’s winner was Hamilton, Ohio. The rest of the top five were as follows:

2nd: Emporia, Kansas
3rd: Clearbrook, Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada
4th: Three way tie—
Montpelier, Ohio
Dickinson, North Dakota
Eldorado, Colorado
5th: Independence, Missouri

The tastings are the main attraction, but the gathering also includes seminars and discussions about public health and environmental issues around water. Among the topics this past February were the effect of climate change on water sources, as well as a case discussion of the 2014 contamination of drinking water for 300,000 West Virginians due to a leaky chemical storage tank. That disaster last year led the Water Tasting organizers to introduce a new Clean Water Pledge, asking participants to agree to the statement "Water is for life. I pledge to do all I can to keep our water clean."

"American Mall," Bloomberg
Unwinnable Video Game Challenges You to Keep a Shopping Mall in Business
"American Mall," Bloomberg
"American Mall," Bloomberg

Shopping malls, once the cultural hub of every suburb in America, have become a punchline in the e-commerce era. There are plenty of malls around today, but they tend to be money pits, considering the hundreds of "dead malls" haunting the landscape. Just how hard is it to keep a mall afloat in the current economy? American Mall, a new video game from Bloomberg, attempts to give an answer.

After choosing which tycoon character you want as your stand-in, you're thrown into a mall—rendered in 1980s-style graphics—already struggling to stay in business. The building is filled with rats and garbage you have to clean up if you want to keep shoppers happy. Every few seconds you're contacted by another store owner begging you to lower their rent, and you must either take the loss or risk them packing up for good. When stores are vacated, it's your job to fill them, but it turns out there aren't too many businesses interested in setting up shop in a dying mall.

You can try gimmicks like food trucks and indoor playgrounds to keep customers interested, but in the end your mall will bleed too much money to support itself. You can try playing the bleak game for yourself here—maybe it will put some of the retail casualties of the last decade into perspective.

[h/t Co.Design]

Pop Culture
Mister Rogers Is Now a Funko Pop! and It’s Such a Good Feeling, a Very Good Feeling

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood for fans of Mister Rogers, as Funko has announced that, just in time for the 50th anniversary of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the kindest soul to ever grace a television screen will be honored with a series of Funko toys, some of them limited-edition versions.

The news broke at the New York Toy Fair, where the pop culture-loving toy company revealed a new Pop Funko! in Fred Rogers’s likeness—he’ll be holding onto the Neighborhood Trolley—plus a Mister Rogers Pop! keychain and a SuperCute Plush.

In addition to the standard Pop! figurine, there will also be a Funko Shop exclusive version, in which everyone’s favorite neighbor will be wearing a special blue sweater. Barnes & Noble will also carry its own special edition, which will see Fred wearing a red cardigan and holding a King Friday puppet instead of the Neighborhood Trolley.


Barnes & Noble's special edition Mister Rogers Funko Pop!

Mister Rogers’s seemingly endless supply of colored cardigans was an integral part of the show, and a sweet tribute to his mom (who knitted all of them). But don’t go running out to snatch up the whole collection just yet; Funko won’t release these sure-to-sell-out items until June 1, but you can pre-order your Pop! on Amazon right now.


More from mental floss studios