The water where you live will have a huge impact on the flavor of your coffee. The thing is, if you have lived where you do for a long while, you become inured to your own water. In New York City, the water (from the Hudson River aquifer) is actually quite mineral-heavy. This makes for water that is slightly soapy-tasting and smooth in mouthfeel. Lots of minerals can increase the extraction rate of coffee (that is, make it extract more fully more quickly).
Once I was doing a cupping in a country that shall not be named, and, having received a request for "bottled water" to do the cupping, the man who got the supplies brought in two huge containers of distilled water. Distilled water is basically pure H20, with nothing else inside. Might sound like a good thing, but it's not. If you don't believe me, you can try a little experiment at home. Make one pot of coffee with your tap water, one with some bottled spring water, and one with bottled distilled water. Just be careful to control your other variables, and you can learn a valuable lesson about how water affects taste.
I thought of this post while I was shaving this morning. I use an old-fashioned safety razor (like the baby in the picture) and badger's hair brush with real shaving soap. This method takes a little longer than a can of gel and plastic cartridge razors from the supermarket. But if you do it right, it gives you a much nicer shave. Part of the reason it gives you a better shave is that you are more in tune with the subtleties of the process. You can tell when the blade is sharp and when it needs replacing. You can feel a subtle but definite change in friction when you use a new shaving soap. It even feels different when I spent a lot of time outdoors the previous day versus staying indoors and making coffee.
Anyway, the big change I noticed recently is in the water. In the Seattle area, the water is much cleaner than in New York City. In a way, this makes it harsher. Without those softening minerals in it, it becomes crisp and almost — I know this sounds silly — dry. You notice it when you drink it, and you notice it when you make coffee with it. And you can notice it when you shave. When I pull the razor across my face, it tends to stick and tug more. Not so much that I cut myself, but enough that I feel a touch more raw at the end of the process. In New York, the water tends to add another lubricating layer to your face. In Seattle, it bounces off you like your were a duck.
The great thing about life, and about coffee, is that you will never, ever run out of things to pay attention to. That's the fun of it. There's actually a quality to the climate here that affects coffee quality, but that's another post for another day (anyone want to take a guess what it is?). I might be crazy for thinking about extraction rates when I shave, but I suspect I'm not the only one. Have you ever had an insight into coffee that came from an unexpected source? And what's your water like?