What It Means To Be India’s First And Only Certified Water Sommelier
Ganesh Iyer has been a part of teams that have launched six brands of natural mineral and sparkling waters in India – Veen is his seventh. The country’s first and only certified water sommelier is able to detect, recognise and differentiate between various types of natural waters based on their many natural characteristics – like minerality, carbonation, hardness, orientation and virginality, amongst other elements. His extensive training in the subject enables him to suggest pairings of different waters with different cuisines, wines and spirits.
Ask him about the first thing he notices in a sample of water, and he promptly shares, “It’s the appearance. This is followed by its gustatory and olfactory reception and finally its after-taste.”
In a conversation with Verve, the Water Sommelier, and Director Operations India and Indian Subcontinent, Veen, talks about the company’s sources in Finland and Bhutan, the difference between natural and purified water, and what they’re doing for the environment.
Veen has been nicknamed the ‘Michelin-star water’. What sets it apart from other brands of packaged water?
Veen has found multiple unique natural spring sources where it produces distinctive bottled water products with individual characteristics. Veen’s place of origin is Finnish Lapland and it is the home of its first spring source. The brand discovered its second home in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan in 2014. Veen’s sources are located amongst the purest water bodies on the planet and are exceptionally rare in characteristic, in that they are in extremely remote, unpopulated and unpolluted parts of the world. And the sources are equally pure in our virginal water that is unadulterated by nitrate.
What makes the water found in the Kingdom of Bhutan so special?
The Kingdom of Bhutan is the world’s first and only carbon negative country in the world. There are some fascinating similarities between our roots in the Finnish Lapland and Bhutan; they have largely managed to remain untouched by human interference. To maintain the USP of Veen’s brand, the water we bottled outside Finland needed to be exceptional. And this is why we eventually invested in the mineral water spring and bottling plant in Bhutan. The source of our mineral water lies in the Eastern Himalayas, in what is known as the Last Shangri-La, or the Kingdom of Bhutan. The Bhutanese treasure their natural environment, as it is seen as the source of all life and the abode of the gods and spirits.
What are some of the simple things that a layman could look for in their drinking water?
There are three simple, commonly known things that a layman should be mindful of to ensure that his drinking water is healthy and safe. It should be free of contaminants, devoid of foul smell and have consistency in appearance.
What is the one thing you would like people to be conscious about with reference to the water they drink?
From a quality and culinary perspective, I would always urge people to drink ‘natural’ rather than ‘purified’ water. Natural mineral water is unprocessed and comes from a specific natural source, whereas purified water is basically non-potable water that has been purified and made suitable for consumption. Also, choose glass bottles over plastic – for yourself and the environment.
Apart from packaging the water in glass bottles, what are the other steps taken to ensure an environmentally friendly product?
At Veen, we focus primarily on giving the hospitality industry in India a solution to having access to natural mineral water in premium recyclable glass packaging. We believe that the choice of water plays a crucial role in the overall dining experience. We want to help the hospitality industry with new solutions to facilitate recycling and responsible waste management. One of the projects that we are currently working on is to provide hotels that are our clients with an on-site Glass-to-Sand crusher, which reduces their glass waste by 90 per cent. This ensures that the recycling is done on-site itself rather than being left to someone else to do. One of the big challenges we are facing is that although a lot of products are marketed as ‘recyclable’, only about 7 to 8 per cent of them actually do get recycled.
How does our consumption of drinking water affect the environment? Is there anything we could do to leave a more positive impact?
Almost all types of human consumption have an impact on the environment. Reduce the amount of packaging you use, start investing in re-usable bags instead of plastic bags, switch from plastic to glass wherever possible and be conscious of what happens to all the waste you generate. It’s important that we each consider a change in our lifestyles which incorporates responsible consumption, awareness, conservation and waste management. Reducing our individual procuring of single-use plastic would be a step in the right direction.