Being Modern: Bottled water

Ah, summer days. And what could be more refreshing than an unadulterated glass of pure water. Eau de Sidcup, anyone? Thought not. So imagine the British public's surprise when a money-making scheme once dreamt up by Del Boy became reality. It was 2004 and Coca-Cola felt it was time to, um, tap into the bottled-water market. Sadly, it soon came to light that the other "real thing" contained nothing more than filtered tap water from a factory in Sidcup. Dasani was laughed out of UK shops, but the trend for paying for something that we can all get for free shows no signs of abating.

Evian sold its first earthenware bottle of water in 1829, and a little over 30 years later, Napoleon III paved the way for the naturally carbonated water from the Perrier spring to be bottled and sold. But it wasn't until the Filofax era of the 1980s that bottled water began to be marketed as a luxury item. And from there, the madness continued.

Now, Britons quench their thirst with three billion litres of bottled water a year. Fiji Water is flown 10,000 miles to the UK, so English people may sup on waters left behind from Fijian rainfall 400 years ago. Legend has it that Claridge's once offered a menu replete with 30 different types of mineral water. One can only assume that some of the offerings were exceedingly moist or particularly see-through, for what else could command a £21 price tag for a bottle of the wet stuff?

Water sommeliers are now appearing to guide us through this liquid labyrinth, offering helpful suggestions for those in need of a water for an "epicurean setting" or those with the aim of "transporting the sensation of drinking the water at the spring to the table". Muddy knees not included, we assume.

And so, from the heights of this bottlemania, we come full circle to the humble tap, which in Molecule, New York's first water-only café, provides the water which then goes through active-carbon-five-micron reverse osmosis, UV and ozone treatments, among other things. Funny thing is, we're not feeling thirsty any more.