The New York Times published what seemed to me a somewhat cranky Op-Ed piece on August 1, 2005, called “Bad to the Last Drop,” by Tom Standage. Mr. Standage, who is the technology editor of The Economist, conducted a blind taste test of ten bottled and tap waters with his friends. The result? They couldn’t tell which was tap and which was bottled, so their conclusion was that “people cannot tell the difference between tap water and bottled water,” therefore, they are wasting their money when they buy the latter.
This was a very poor test, in my view. I remember when I lived in Argentina, as a youngster, and commuted between two cities, Buenos Aires and Mar del Plata. I spent my teenage years in the latter, which is a seaside resort, and the tap water seemed just fine. Then I went to Buenos Aires for college, and the tap water there was vile! After a while I got used to it, and it seemed normal. Then I would return to my home town, and the tap water there was vile in turn! Until I got used to it, and then it became normal. As I moved twice a year — college, recess, summer, etc. — my relationship with the waters swung widely, and every time the taste took getting used to.