Mon, Jan 07, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Turning water into wine

From crystal infusions to water sommeliers and even bottling the frequency of rainbows, the top end of town has well and truly cashed in on the world’s most vital resource

By Toby McCasker  /  The Guardian

Residents in April 2017 view the first iceberg of the season as it passes the South Shore, also known as “Iceberg Alley,” near Ferryland Newfoundland, Canada. Some luxury water brands harvest water from icebergs.

Photo: Reuters

Over the last few years, an unusual and conspicuous sight has become commonplace in the cafes and eateries of Sydney’s inner suburbs: Frequency H20 Alkaline Spring Water. The water, which costs AUD$3.30 (US$2.32) per 1L bottle, proclaims to be infused with the sound, light and literal frequencies of three very abstract “flavors”: Love (528Hz), Lunar (210.42Hz) and Rainbow (430-770THz).

Last year, Love became the first Australian water in nearly three decades to place first in the best bottled water category of the prestigious Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting. Its creator, Sturt Hinton (not a typo; he’s ironically named after the desert), meets me in his local vegan fish and chip shop. It’s one of 400 stores he personally delivers his product to whenever stocks run low.

“It’s about lifting the spirits of the world, you know what I mean? And lifting my spirits,” he says.

He was inspired to create Frequency H20 after a lengthy bout of crippling depression. “Just bringing delight to people, and it delivers this promise to consumers through having something so high quality and people can taste it. They can feel the difference. It’s clean, it’s light, they just love it. They love the idea. What a wonderful concept. Beautiful water.”

The story of Frequency H20 was enough to pique the interest of Katy Perry (whose management requested it during her recent Witness tour), Paris Hilton (now following @frequencyh2o) and the Veronicas, who share their appreciation online with such vigor they could be unofficial brand ambassadors.

Following this year’s Berkeley Springs victory, the Australian government at large even took note, with Austrade selecting it for the official Commonwealth Games showcase. Though he claims to have invested US$100,000 in its development, Hinton is unwilling to discuss the unique device he claims he designed — “It’s not like Coke is going to give up their trade secret” — that produces his water by harnessing “the incredible natural alchemy of energized molecules.”

He does acknowledge this nebulous air of naturopathy is central to its appeal. That and the trending but increasingly dubious belief that alkaline water is better for you than regular tap water.

LUXURY WATER

In the luxury water business, a free good is repackaged and resold as aspirational.

“I think it’s like the most marketable thing ever invented,” Hinton says.

The core of this concept of “fine water” might seem like a new phenomenon, but in fact it dates back to the Roman empire, where certain aqueducts were preferred, or even considered divine, and natural carbonated water was imported from Germania in earthen jars.

The industrial revolution would literally poison the well, as drinking water became a vector for diseases like typhus and cholera. The rich could afford to have unspoiled water delivered from remote sources; poor people simply died until municipal chlorination in the early 20th century helped people live longer.

Bottled or otherwise, there are now more people on earth consuming more water than ever before, and climate change just might be contributing to an increasing dearth of it with longer and more intense droughts.

The story of water, then, is the story of the world — and the luxury industry is cashing in.

Hinton’s frequency-infused industry darlings are just the tip of the iceberg. Some premium waters such as Svalbard, sold locally for A$115 per 750ml bottle, are literally made from icebergs harvested on expeditions to the Arctic Ocean. Water bottles with crystals in them and crystal-infused water like that of Australia’s Madam Dry (A$49.99 per 12 pack) are trends within a trend, inspired by Instagram’s wilderness of “wellness,” the regimens of Miranda Kerr and there’s that naturopathy again: Madam Dry lists what astrological sign the moon was traveling through when “brewing” commenced. Premium, luxury or fine water has even co-opted much of the wine industry’s terminology — “varietal,” “mouthfeel” and “terroir” — as well as introducing some of its own.

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