Waiheke Island designer water bound for US competition
Water is water, right? Not so, says Waiheke Island business owner Jessie Ball.
Indeed, a range of products launched under his Waiheke Water brand may well become all the rage if experts in the US give it the thumbs up.
The waters and packaging are about to be judged at an annual global competition in Berkeley Springs, near Washington DC.
Just a few minutes with Ball and there's no doubt he's passionate about water, the importance of its source and its purity.
He is the owner of a company called Waiheke Aquifers, which has launched a range of designer waters that Ball says can enhance the flavours of food and spirits.
The company is one of four delivering bulk water supplies on the island but also offers water tastings.
Ball is hoping his products will attract the same international popularity as Fiji Water, said to be a favourite with US celebrities like Barak Obama.
One of the new gourmet waters is being marketed under the name Imperial and is presented in sleek bottles in a presentation case.
Ball said Imperial was specifically aimed at enhancing the flavour of spirits.
The company already sells bottled water, water cooler flagons and ice (both fresh and saltwater) under its Waiheke Water brand.
The water is drawn from an aquifer that runs from the Coromandel to deep below the island, where it is naturally filtered under high pressure through rock and sand.
At more than 172 years old, it comes out of the ground naturally alkaline and is bottled at source.
But different treatments produce alternative flavours without destroying the purity.
"We were one of the sponsors of last year's Taste of Auckland, offering the concept of matching water with food," Ball said.
"Our Waiheke Sparkle, for example, is sweet and delicate on the palate, with medium bubbles and a refreshingly clean dry finish.
"It is suited for lighter dishes such as fish, chicken, light cheeses and delicate flavours.
"But Waiheke Minerals is ideal for red meats, cured meat, and tomato sauced pastas.
"And there are other minerals in development for more dominant flavours, such as curries."
The Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting Competition runs from February 23 to 25 and Ball is hoping his water will be a hit.
The panel of judges will be assessing taste, texture and smell as well as after-taste and silkiness.
If they like it, the island could be a "must visit" for water as well as wine and olives.