Roughly three and a half years ago, I saw my first bottle of Essentia water. It was in a paparazzi photo of Busy Philipps, making its presence known with its bold, black-and-red label and decidedly sexy frame. Shortly thereafter, I noticed that Essentia water had also booked a recurring role on Keeping Up With the Kardashians. On most episodes, you could find it standing tall next to a chopped salad or hanging out by the pool in Malibu. I’m sorry to say that I started buying it almost immediately. A one-liter bottle costs $1.99.
The surprising thing is: It tastes good! Like, so much better than Smartwater, which you would think would be great because it’s made by Jennifer Aniston. Every time I accidentally drink Smartwater, I think, man, I wish I had some water. It’s like drinking air? Essentia is also the polar opposite of the status water from when I was in high school, Fiji: Instead of that soft, baby-pool flavor, Essentia is crisp with just a hint of sodium bicarbonate.
Essentia’s specific marketing hook is that it has a higher pH level than regular tap water. Allegedly. Is that why I like it? On its website, Essentia explains how it achieves this high level of pH in three steps: “PURIFICATION,” “ELECTROLYTES,” and “IONIZATION.” Reading through its claims about “microfiltration” and “reverse osmosis” and removing “bitter-tasting acidic ions,” I’m like, okay, someone made all of this up. Health experts agree: There is no evidence to suggest that alkaline water is better for you than other water, no matter what Tom Brady says. Still, there is something about the specific flavor of Essentia that keeps me coming back for more. When I pick one up at CVS, I feel like I’m doing something nice for myself, if not the planet.
I’m not the only one who is deep in thrall to Essentia. MrWaterGeek.com rates it among the best alkaline waters on the market. “This is one of my personal favourite bottled water brands because of it’s ridiculously high 9.5 water pH level,” writes Mr. Geek. “And it is what I consider to be the best alkaline bottled water.”
My boss, Leah Finnegan, says, “Essentia somehow goes down easier than other bottled waters. It made me realize that Smartwater is trash.”
Also allegedly Beyonce drinks it.
The one upsetting thing I learned while researching why Essentia tastes so good is that some scientists think it is ultimately bad for you. Last year, The New York Times reported on a study in which rats who were given alkaline water showed impaired growth and damage to their cardiac muscles. There are also other alkaline waters that have reportedly caused children to go into liver failure, though the FDA has not yet established why. So.
On the plus side, there have not been any reports about negative health effects stemming from Essentia water, specifically. This leads me to believe that perhaps Essentia is not so alkaline after all. It simply tastes good, and celebrities drink it, which has probably not influenced me one way or the other.
Will I ever fight the urge to purchase Essentia water? It’s hard to say. On a recent road trip, I stopped at a gas station in the middle of the Catskills that did not have it. I got a Poland Spring instead, and it tasted pretty good.