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Publix is first in quenching thirst

Published August 24, 2005

No. 1: Publix.

No. 2: Fiji.

No. 3: Zephyrhills.

After a workout, a marathon or five seconds in the August heat, any drink of water probably tastes great. But a sampling of cool water in a comfortably air-conditioned kitchen yielded real differences in taste.

Taster's Choice sampled 13 waters, 12 bottled and one wild card, available locally. All were chilled and many tasted remarkably similar. That said, we found a winner in the water bottled and sold by Publix (89 cents for a 50-ounce bottle).

The store brand received 59 of 80 points. All four of the judges said they would buy Publix bottled water.

Water got higher marks from our panelists when it refreshed without an aftertaste. The minerals in some waters were evident.

The second favorite was a water I first sampled at a luxury hotel in Honolulu. I remember sitting by the beach, watching the sunset and sipping ice-cold Fiji water. Our judges didn't conjure the same vision, but they did give Fiji ($2.09 for 1.5 liters) 55 points. The water is, simply, clean-tasting.

Zephyrhills, which I have delivered to my house a couple of times a month, ranked third. (A six-pack is generally $1.99.) All judges said they buy Zephyrhills, but will consider others now. The water was fine, but not as refreshing as Publix and Fiji.

Descriptions of the samples ranged from "pure, like something you might get in a cold stream," to "pool water."

One of the biggest criticisms was that some samples tasted like tap water. It turns out one was. I slipped some St. Petersburg city water into the row of samples and all four panelists rated it below the others. The tap water received 17 points. (That's why I have the Zephyrhills delivery guy at my house every month.)

Taster's Choice decided some companies use the term "natural" water loosely. And extra chemicals might clean the water, but they also alter the taste.

Also sampled were: Crystal Springs ($1.09 for a gallon); Aquafina ($1.29 for 1.5 liters); Dasani ($1.19 for 1 liter); Volvic ($1.99 for 50.7 ounces); Evian ($1.79 for 1.5 liters); Deer Park ($1.19 for a gallon); Kash n' Karry (59 cents for a gallon); Dannon ($2.29 for six ll-ounce bottles) and Nestles Pure Life ($3.29 for 12 1-liter bottles).

Panelists were: Nan Jensen, registered dietitian with Pinellas County Extension, Gary Kawalec, chef/owner of Supper Club, a make-and-take meal assembly business soon to open in Safety Harbor, Julie Overton, personal chef, and Janet K. Keeler, St. Petersburg Times food editor. All products were tasted blind. Send suggestions for product testing to Taste section, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or e-mail them to Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to

[Last modified August 23, 2005, 18:13:42]

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