In an especially Emperor's New Clothes sort of twist, a new store in Manhattan's East Village is selling New York City tap water that they filter via a special technique back to discriminating water consumers. (Remember when we were all racing out of the office to hit the "oxygen bar" for a few relaxing puffs of that which we are already surrounded by before we headed home? Good times!)
Sophia Hollander reports in The Wall Street Journal on this Onion-esque happening. The store is called Molecule, and its owners have a special "$25,000 filtering machine that uses ultraviolet rays, ozone treatments and reverse osmosis in a seven-stage processing treatment to create what they call pure H20." So, like, it's really really really clean, delicious processed water. What does it taste like? If you've got a dumbed-down, adulterated palate like ours, possibly the same as the regular old New York's finest: "'I mean it's subtle, but if you have a sensitive palate you can totally tell' the difference, said co-owner Adam Ruhf" to Hollander. Per the Journal,
Mr. Ruhf says his water is unusually "fluffy" with a "smooth" finish. (A reporter found it lighter and more velvety than city tap water.)
This is not just about taste, though. Ruhf, who runs the company with local art dealer and restaurant owner Alexander Venet, does not believe that New York City tap water, long touted as good and clean and healthy by advocates like Mayor Bloomberg, is that great at all. He is a recent transplant from California. Others feel differently.
"Public health experts agree that New York City tap water is among the safest, highest quality in the world, a standard we confirm through more than 500,000 tests each year," said Christopher Gilbride, a spokesman for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.
Point is, do you want to pay $2.50 plus tax for a 16-ounce bottle of what you can get—minus the process, of course—out of your tap, or pour out of your own Britta, or glug from a bottle of Poland Spring you got for a buck at the bodega? Do we need fancy water (of course not) any more than we need fancy air?
In related news, at a restaurant this weekend upon being asked the typical "tap or bottled?" question, I asked how many customers actually go with something other than "tap is fine" in New York. At this particular spot in Brooklyn, my waitress said "only 5 percent, and those people ask for sparkling." At another place with more snooty customers (tip!), she said, it might be higher.
We await these new New York "water connoisseurs" with both amusement and trepidation. Also, if water is "artisanal," is Artisanal finally, really dead?