When you think of places around the world where people have enjoyed the “waters” I bet you can come up with a celebrated list of famous spa locations: Baden-Baden, Germany; Bath, Great Britain, Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic; Glenwood Hot Springs, Colorado and so many more. There are springs that cater to the uber wealthy and many that are enjoyed by the rest of us with some accessible only to hikers off the beaten path.
But to find the International Water Tasting Festival, held this year from February 23-26, you must travel to the town of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.
For centuries people have traveled to Berkeley Springs, WV to enjoy the health benefits of the warm mineral waters. Historically, Native Americans traveled from as far away as Canada, the Great Lakes and the Carolinas to bathe there. In the mid 1700s, George Washington was a regular visitor and helped establish Berkeley Springs’ reputation as a health resort throughout the American Colonies.
Now a state park, the Berkeley Springs Baths carry on this centuries-old tradition. Renovated in 1994, the Federal-style brick building was originally built in 1815 on the site of an earlier bath house.
The waters flow at a constant 74°F from the base of Warm Springs Ridge. You may still drink freely and fill your jugs at Lord Fairfax’s public tap and wade in the ancient stone pools in the nation’s smallest state park. The town has endured cycles of notoriety, fashion, war and modern progress, but remains the Country’s First Spa, a small quiet haven set in the beauty of West Virginia’s mountains.
Each year, the last weekend of February, the world arrives for the annual International Water Tasting Festival. Blind taste tests include municipal waters, competing for the coveted honor of best tasting tap water. Bottled waters, both still and sparkling are judged, along with waters in a new category in 2012, purified drinking water. The public will have an opportunity to vote for the People’s Choice award for best packaging.
2011 Award Winners
Gold: …Daytona Beach, FL
Silver….Desert Hot Springs, CA
Bronze: Santa Ana, CA
4th — Oxford, MI
5th — Kent, OH
Non-Carbonated Bottled Water
Gold: Muskoka Springs, Jarratt, Ontario, Canada
Silver: Pristine Springs, Clear Springs, MD
Bronze: Highbridge Springs, Wilmore, KY
4th —Almost Heaven, Manassas, VA bottling famous Berkeley Springs, WV
5th — English Mountain Springs Water, Dandridge, TN
Purified Drinking Water
Gold: Texan Independence Water, League City, TX
Silver: Rain Fresh Oxygen Rich Purified Water, Garland, TX
Bronze: Mother’s Finest, Reidsville, NC
4th — Berkeley Springs Purified Water, Berkeley Springs, WV
5th –Virginia Natural Water – Charlottesville, VA
Carbonated Bottled Water
Gold: Esperanza, Tesanj, Bosnia
Silver: Mountain Valley Sparkling Water, Hot Springs, AR
Bronze: Tesanjski Dijament, Tesanj, Bosnia
4th —Antipodes, Whakatane, New Zealand
5th- – Arctica, Marchand, MB, Canada
The People’s Choice for Package Design
Gold: Tasmanian Rain, Tasmania
Silver: Antipodes, Whakatane, New Zealand
Bronze: Canadian Gold, Marchand, MB, Canada
4th —Bling H2O, Los Angeles, CA
5th — Hawaiian Springs Young Natural Artesian Water, Kea’au, Hawaii
What’s your water?