CLOSE
Original image
Jeanne Mozier

Which City Has the Tastiest Tap Water?

Original image
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."

Original image
The Playhouse Theatre
arrow
fun
The World’s First Minecraft Play Debuts in Northern Ireland
Original image
The Playhouse Theatre

There are a lot of replicas of real-world locations in Minecraft, but there are few replicas of real-life performances. The latest show to premiere at the Playhouse Theatre in Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland, though, takes place both on stage and online. In what the theater is billing as the world’s first live play inside Minecraft, actors will perform both in real life and through digital avatars.

Playcraft Live is adapted from a series of young adult sci-fi novels called TimeRiders, which follows a group of teens as they work to stop future time travelers from changing history—in the case of this story, in the Neolithic Age. While the play was written by TimeRiders author Alex Scarrow, Minecraft users were involved in producing it, helping professional video game designers build out one of the virtual sets as part of a Minecraft buildathon in late September.

Three Minecraft renderings of Times Square
The Playhouse Theatre

The performance will be split between the actors live on stage and puppeteers controlling the avatars in the game. “Audiences within the theater, and online, will experience the production as a single live-stream, and neither audience needs to own Minecraft in order to view the stream,” according to a press release from the theater.

The play debuts on October 14 in Northern Ireland, and you can also watch it online via livestream.

Original image
iStock
arrow
fun
The Seemingly Simple ‘Math’ Problem That Stumped the Internet
Original image
iStock

If you’re a regular Mental Floss reader, you know that we love a good brain teaser. And the one below, which originated on Facebook and has been shared more than 150,000 times, is a great one to test just how sharp you are on a Friday evening at the end of a long workweek.

It’s a seemingly simple enough task: spot the error. Your time starts now…

We’ll give you a minute …

And a little space for you to scroll down to find the answer …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you figure it out?

The “mistake” is that the word “mistake” is misspelled on the instruction sheet on the left. If you missed that completely, you’re not alone: the grid of numbers is what immediately grabs your attention.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios