From Iceland — Ölkelda: The Mineral Water Isn't For Sale—It's Free (For Now)

Ölkelda: The Mineral Water Isn’t For Sale—It’s Free (For Now)

Published June 20, 2011

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Maroesjka Lavigne

The first stop on our tour of northwest of Iceland was a place you’d normally drive right past without noticing it: a farm like so many other farms you drive by on Route 1, called Ölkelda. But what makes this farm unique, located on Route 1 about an hour north of Borgarnes, is the presence of a natural spring that gives forth naturally carbonated water. This we had to experience.

Pulling into the driveway in the middle of the day, we saw no one around. There were no signs indicating a natural spring anywhere near the place, and for a moment we thought we were lost. A knock on the door of the first house we came to was answered by a friendly middle-aged farmer named Svavar. When I asked where this purported spring was, he pointed to a small pipe sticking out of the ground that ended in a spigot. “Right over there. Just help yourselves”.

And so we did. The reviews, I have to say, were mixed. I thought it tasted a lot like Toppur, a lightly carbonated bottled water you can buy in most supermarkets. Our photographer felt it tasted like the fizzy drink you take when you’re feeling ill, or hungover. Regardless of the taste, the water is high in minerals such as calcium, potassium and iron. Svavar came out later on, hopped on a tractor, drove to his barn, and hoisted out a large aluminium sign with all the water’s nutritional information on it. He explained that his grandmother, who is 101 years old, drinks this water every day.

The first question that sprang to my mind was if he’d ever considered bottling and selling the water, or at least charging people for drinking it. He dismissed the idea outright. “The problem is, if the water sits in a bottle for a while, it gets this yellowish colour near the bottom. That’s the iron. It’s good for you but it doesn’t look really good”. After a few beats, though, he asked how much we would pay if the water were being sold in bottles in the store. “I was thinking maybe, I don’t know, 100 krónur per bottle?”. Which is hilarious, seeing how “pure Icelandic water” is sold in stores for twice this. When we told him this, he appeared to mull over the idea of taking his water onto the open market. So we recommend stopping there now, while it’s still free.

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