Jasper Schneider held his glass to the light, surveying the hue of the liquid inside, and pursed his lips. He swirled his glass, sniffed, and took a sip, as if he were taste-testing a fine wine.
But Schneider isn’t a sommelier.
He’s a water judge.
“You can just kind of tell as it goes down, which one feels good, which one’s nourishing,” said Schneider, one of three white-coated judges at the 16th annual “Great American Water Taste Test” in Washington, D.C.
As for the theatrics – “That was mostly for effect,” he admits with a laugh.
Each year, a three-person panel selected by the Natural Rural Water Association assesses samples of America’s finest drinking water based on three criteria: taste, clarity and bouquet.
In the blind taste test, what seems to matter most is “crispness.”
Each judge sipped five different water samples served in wine glasses and carried in on a silver platter. Between swallows, the judges nibbled on saltine crackers as a “palate cleanser.”
“We come into it with a lot of experience, drinking lots of water from sources over the course of our lives,” joked Schneider, who also works for the House Agriculture Committee. “This will certainly make my LinkedIn resume!”
But the judges were there to judge and decisions had to be made.
Their unanimous favorite was the H2O from Easthampton, Massachusetts. Second and third place went to Whittier, Alaska and Buhl, Idaho, respectively.
"I’m really proud of this,” Tom Newton, supervisor of Easthampton Water Works, told ABC News. “I’ve put 40 years of my life into this. I’m retiring this year. This is the victory lap.”