Would you pay for tap water? The guys behind Molecule, a new “water café” in New York City’s East Village, are betting on it. “Every 27 hours Americans buy enough bottled water to circle the entire globe,” said Adam Ruhf, who co-owns Molecule with Alex Venet. So instead of plastic bottles, you can buy a glass one at Molecule for $2.50, full of New York City tap water that has been passed through a seven-stage filtration system.
If you bring your own bottle in, you can get it filled for $1, and for $10 you get five gallons of water delivered to you. For an extra couple of dollars, you can add extra electrolytes, alkaline, multivitamins, or combinations with names like Energy, Glamour Shot, Recover and Fountain of Youth.
“A lot of our blends are based on traditional medicine from China and Scandinavia that we have researched,” said Ruhf. “You can create your own vitamin water without sugar or additives, just pure ingredients.”
While they are completely serious about their water project, not everyone sees it that way. Recently, the New York Post wrote a scathing article on the café, calling it a scam, with Steve Cuozzo writing, “Who’d waste money on Molecule? Those who belong to the High Holy Church of Culinary Rectitude. They’re the ones who blog and bitch that everything we consume is part of a plot to poison us and lay waste to the environment.”
The response from Ruhf and Venet? Critics are missing the point.
“We feel like any amount of toxic chemicals we are drinking in our water every day is too much,” said Ruhf. Compared to what bottled water can cost when you’re out and about, Molecule’s prices really aren’t bad. And some bottled waters, like Aquafina and Dasani, are also filled with purified tap water, rather than “spring” water, and that doesn’t seem to dissuade customers.
But since New York City’s tap water is some of the cleanest in the country, does all the filtration make any difference? “Obviously, New York is leading the way in trying to deliver the cleanest water they can,” said Ruhf. “However, the pipes here are 95 years old, so, while the efforts are really amazing at the source of our water in the Catskills, what’s happening at the tap is another story.”
Molecule's customized filtration system daily cleans 1,000 gallons of New York City tap water (which, like all New Yorkers, they do pay for). As for the taste of the water, when served cold it was cleaner and crisper than normal tap water.
However, once it warmed up to room temperature, I really couldn’t taste a difference.