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Icebergs help one entrepreneur make a splash in China

By Xu Junqian in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2017-09-06 07:52

Icebergs help one entrepreneur make a splash in China

Entrepreneur Zhu Jiangliang is a water sommelier and the owner of Purelogica, a luxury water import and distribution business in China. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Zhu Jiangliang wanted to become a mixologist, learning the skill of making cocktails, before he was 20.

He even spent a year in a Sydney bar figuring out the "magical possibilities between gins, wines and liquors".

But now the 32-year-old Shanghai-born entrepreneur is dedicated to one beverage-water. In fact, he has made a "profession" out of sniffing and sipping various types of H2O.

He claims he can even tell the subtle differences of PH and calcium levels in a wide range of spring and mineral water.

In short, he calls himself a master water sommelier, a French word originally used to describe a "wine steward".

Zhu has even been profiled by CNN Travel in an article entitled: Serious sips: On the job with Shanghai's leading water sommelier.

He is proud of his "profession" and pointed out that there are only a handful of people in China with his background.

"There are five grades of water sommeliers," Zhu said. "The entry level is about telling whether the water is acidic or contains certain minerals. The second level involves blind tasting, while the third requires pairing different types of water with tea, coffee or wine.

"The highest level is a master of water sommelier, which is me," Zhu said half jokingly, adding that he also owns Purelogica, a luxury water import and distribution business in China.

During the past few years, Zhu has focused on training staff at luxury hotels and turning them into "water sommeliers", with a training system loosely based on wine tasting.

"My vision is to have 5,000 water sommeliers in China in 10 years," he said.

Since he introduced his training program last year, more than 200 candidates have signed up for the courses.

Most work for high-class hotels such as the Park Hyatt, the Ritz Carlton and the Waldorf.

The entry-level course is free of charge, but after that prices start from $3,000 per grade.

Zhu, who also worked for luxury car brands for several years, confessed he fell in love with H2O after being impressed by the sweetness of a glass of mineral water during a dinner appointment.

While the taste lingered overnight, his interest in water grew and he tried more than 100 types of H2O within a week.

In 2010, he became a certified "water sommelier" from the Korean International Sommelier Association. He has since developed his Chinese program in partnership with the KISA.

"Everyone has to drink water," Zhu said. "Unlike coffee or wine, water is as essential as air.

"So natural water is the safest choice as well as an indulgence," he added.

The most expensive water in his Purelogica portfolio is Greenland Iceberg at 1,500 yuan ($225) a bottle.

This is made from floating Arctic icebergs and sold as water "that is 100,000 years old".

"It sells like hot cakes," Zhu said. "The limited 15,000 bottles we can get every year are sold out within four months. And now people want to learn and tell others the special taste of the old water," he added.

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