In a country filled with coconut trees, there might still be few occasions when you will choose packaged coconut water over fresh young coconut: just after a workout, to keep conveniently in your fridge, the morning after a party, etc.
So to re-hydrate yourself, and recharge on minerals, your second best choice after the real nam maprao might be bottled coconut water.
The different processes
In the world of packaged coconut water… you will find different types of techniques, resulting in different end-product. Well, as they almost all look the same at first, I found the below information useful in order to make an enlightened choice!
These are the main ways of “treating” coconut water before packaging it:
- Heat treatment
The major aim of thermal treatment, is to reach a micro-biological and chemical stability for the consumers’ safety, and allow a long shelf life (10-12 months).
The conventional methods are pasteurisation and sterilisation, but also microwave heating.
The shelf life can be prolonged further with the use of additives.
The downside is that the taste of the coconut water could be altered by the heat.
Also, would its nutritional benefits be affected? Most likely.
- Cold treatment
Another method involving a change of temperature is refrigeration. Simple cold preservation will prolongate the shelf life of the coconut water and is a method used above all for small productions. The coconut water is filtered through a cloth into bottles and stored at 4 °C.
This include the method of filtration (micro-filtration, ultra-filtration).
These non-thermal methods will preserve the natural aroma of the coconut water, as well as the level of vitamins and minerals. The shelf life can go up to 6 months provided that the packaging used is perfectly aseptic.
Our shopping options
The popularity of coconut water as a health beverage means that you will find many options in store, especially here in Thailand, as it is a local harvest. I have tried a few, and in order to have a slightly more representative opinion to share with you, I have asked my husband and one of our friends to help me taste some bottled coconut water bought at Villa Market, Gourmet Market, and Big C to have some variety:
All Coco (69 THB for 235 ml), Maprao (59 THB for 250 ml) , Fruit on Tree (49 THB, no volume mentioned but about 250 ml), Malee (25 THB), 28 days (65 THB for 235 ml), Farmacy (109 THB, 450 ml), Cocomax (25 THB for 350 ml), and a bottle of Maprao which water had turned pink-purple.
We blind tasted that! not to be influenced by the look or the information on the bottle. I also added a young fresh coconut as part of the tasting to remind us of the real taste!
And our winners are!
#1 “28 days”
The brand 28 days offers a 100% raw organic coconut water, with the USDA organic label on it. They use cold processing, and the packaging highlights: no pasteurisation, never heated, no sugar added, not from concentrate and no BPA. I was wondering what the 28 days referred to and found the explanation on their website: a reference to the time frame (from 20 to 28 days) within which the coconuts are cultivated. It is a product of Thailand. To be kept refrigerated. The shelf life is about 2 weeks.
#2 “All Coco”
I found the coconut water from All Coco at Gourmet Market at EM Quartier. They also have coconut pudding, slushes and ice cream which you can find in several All coco cafes and some supermarkets’ corners. It is also a product of Thailand, and their website talks about their global standards and their ethical practice. (Check the cute little animations on their website!).
They use no heat, no chemicals.The bottles are stored in a refrigerator, and it has to be kept cold. The shelf life is also about 2 weeks.
This brand is available in many stores including 7-eleven, sold refrigerated or not.
That means… that the water has probably been pasteurised? Although I couldn’t see any information about that on their site, that has to be the case. What they do mention is that they do not add any sugar (Cocomax water contains 22 kcal per 100 ml). The expiry date mentioned was February 2018 for a bottle purchased in March 2017 so I assume that the total shelf life is a year. Pretty convenient you would agree 🙂
This little experiment (as subjective as it is) taught me that pasteurisation might not totally affect the taste of the water; but what about the nutrients?
To enjoy most of the coconut water benefits, I would still go for “raw” especially here in Thailand where they are accessible, but a good taste is definitely my number one criteria, I would prefer a good-tasting pasteurised water rather than an odd-tasting raw water… Personal choice.
In all cases, I would avoid coconut water from concentrate because that means a loss of nutrients, and probably some added sugar.
Few words about the pink-purple color: that is a naturally occurring change due to some enzymes present in the coconut water (Polyphenol oxydase PPO, and peroxydase POD) . If you see it, that is a proof that it has not been treated (to stabilise the enzymes and prevent from this change of color). It also means that it is not the freshest: this would occur few weeks after storage. Many brands would mention that it doesn’t affect the taste or nutritional values.
What other brands do you guys have in mind and which ones could you recommend?