The Texture of Water


I’m talking about the one that comes out of a tap, straight or boiled, hot, tepid, room temperature, fridge cold, or ice cold. Not the bottled stuff or the bubbly stuff, or the one with added flavours, vitamins or minerals. No fancy branded stuff. Just the plain combination of one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms, provided by your country’s water works.

Photo by Lisa from Pexels

I’ve been thinking a lot about water lately. How, when I was young, I preferred it cold, straight out of the fridge, glugged down. It wasn’t even boiled then, just straight from tap to pitcher to fridge. No ice, because I find frozen blocks of tap water make the refrigerated tap water taste stale.

At some point, my preference shifted. Today, I tend to ask for a glass of warm water. I’m sure partly it has to do with the fact that my bladder cannot hold as much in an air conditioned restaurant. But it’s more than that.

Just as you grow older, your spectrum of tolerable and, indeed enjoyable flavours, grows, so too does your sensitivity to the taste and the texture of food.

Think about it. As a child, you mainly appreciate sweet things. Not surprising, since breast milk contains lactose. Sweet is familiar, comforting, even. Salty, maybe. Sour, yuck. Bitter, waaaa! How loudly did you cry and fill your parents with embarrassment from being perceived as unfit and terrible, mentally and psychologically scarring you for life by forcing you to accept horrible tastes? And umami? What was that? Heck, I didn’t even know of this fifth sense of taste-with-no-name till the last 10 – 20 years. Now, all grown up, a lot of us appreciate, even prefer other tastes besides sweetness.

Graph from Google Books Ngram Viewer showing the use of Umami from 1900 - 2019
Umami word use over time since 1900 according to Google Books Ngram Viewer

So it is time to really give this clear liquid the due consideration it deserves, not just when we’re talking about its scarcity, it’s uneven distribution across the globe and lack of clean supply in poor countries, but also in terms of flavour and texture. Stay with me.

Try drinking straight from the tap and then drinking a glass of boiled, but room temperature water. What do you immediately detect? The one from the tap is harsher, more acidic with an in-your-face whiff and taste of added chemicals. Left overnight, the chemicals mostly disappear, but still bruises the throat slightly.

In the fridge, the harshness of tap water is somewhat hidden by the slight burn of lower temperatures. The experience is crisp and refreshing, but somewhat dry.

Once boiled, whether immediately from tap or left to sit out overnight, however, water matures. Too hot though, and you could burn the tongue which then skews the whole experience to unpleasant.

Avoiding that, for an added viscosity, it has to be boiled water that has been cooled to warm. At this stage, at a fairly wide margin from 30C to 55C, the water still feels warm to the touch, but there’s no need to blow on the water, or sip it. Chugging it down is doable except for the most delicate of throats. At this wonderful temperature, the tender, round, sweet, longueur en bouche, extends the enjoyment of this humble beverage.

Now your experience may be different from mine. Firstly, every country has a different water recipe. Secondly, the pipes in your home or those leading to your home may be old or rusty, all contributing valuable trace elements that can alter the taste, skew the pH and thus the mouthfeel of water.

The important takeaway is this. The next time you drink a goblet of water, take the time to discover it. Not just at home, but in places you visit. You’ll find that water isn’t as plain as you assume.





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