Updated: May 7, 2020
On the 8th floor of the much acclaimed Park Hyatt in Shanghai stands John Zhu, the most well-hydrated man in the building. You'll see Zhu swirling the contents of his fancy crystal glasses, sniffing and sipping all the while if you're on the 87th floor. It's easy to assume that John Zhu's sampling champagne or perhaps Prosecco; however, this isn't the case. What Zhu is sipping is naturally carbonated water straight from Slovenia!
Yes, Zhu is what you might call a water sommelier and one of the very few there are in China.
To put this in the simplest of terms; this man gets paid for tasting water. You might wonder why this is even a profession since all water tastes the same; Zhu's job has been at the receiving end of a lot of skepticism and curiosity from channels such as CNN, but he's hired by leading hotels and restaurants across Asia to offer his expertise and experience in tasting water.
Taste the difference
According to John Zhu, water is not very different from wine in the sense that the sources and the minerals that are dissolved in it have a lot to do with the ultimate taste of it. Water may taste the same to most of us, but Zhu's tongue knows what it's looking for each time the samples and sips water from a particular source. Perhaps it's a rare gift, but Zhu can taste the differences that minerals make in the water. According to the water sommelier, water gets sweeter if it has high calcium content and if it's saline, it's because of the sodium in it, or if it tastes metallic, there's a higher concentration of Magnesium in it.
According to Zhu, the Slovenian brand is the richest in magnesium, which gives it a strong metallic taste and this can affect the resulting tastes of tea brewed using this water. Now his job seems more important all of a sudden, right?
Zhu is the forerunner of water sommeliers in China, and he's hoping to inspire more people into the works, and he's already the founder of the Purelogica Academy which has 70 aspiring water sommeliers enrolled already. A lot of his students are experienced staffed from bars and hotels across China who were unaware of how they were going wrong with water; now with Zhu's help, they hope to make their service better than before. If the taste of the water served at restaurants is too strong, it can affect and numb the customer's pallet, making them less likely to taste the food they're served fully.
Strong tasting water can also interfere with the taste of the wine it is paired with, and if the water is too weak tasting for the particular wine it's paired with, the wine's taste might also get diluted. Zhu hopes to educate more restaurants and bars about this problem so they can improve their service.