Coconut water – the real deal vs the packaged drinks

Coconut water has become the latest health craze in the US over the last few years, spurred by celebrity endorsement from Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow. The latter did a three-week cleanse in which she survived on coconut water, pumpkin seeds, miso soup and fruit smoothies, among other food. In 2010, Madonna invested US$1.5 m in Vita Coco, which as you can see from this graph below, is the market leader in the US for coconut water.

coconut water trend

I regard this with some amusement. I grew up drinking coconut water (and eat coconut flesh) straight from the husk. If you live in South-east Asia, coconuts are plentiful and cheap. You can go to any hawker centre and buy a fresh coconut for S$2. You can choose between young and small coconuts to the larger, less sweet varieties. Heck, I’ve even went camping in Pulau Hantu, which is a small island off Singapore, and my friends climbed a coconut tree to pluck the fruit fresh off the branch.

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I love coconuts. I use the flour for baking; the flesh and water to eat and drink with a meal; as well as the oil and milk for cooking. It also makes a great sports drink. It has less sugar, hydrates well and contains five times the amount of potassium as sports drinks like Gatorade. And most importantly, it’s all natural and doesn’t contain garbage colouring. Drink it after hot yoga or a gruelling run to replenish lost electrolytes. Oh, and I also have coconut-scented hair conditioner.

What I’m less certain about is packaged coconut water. I’m convinced that it wouldn’t sell well in Singapore because you can get fresh coconut from a lot of places, although there is something to be said about convenience.

So I decided to take the plunge and test out two brands of coconut water. My only criteria was that the drink had to contain only coconut water with no added sugar or preservatives. The first I tried was Stripped, which is an Australian brand, and the coconuts used are sourced from Thailand. I purchased this from SunMoon at 167 Telok Ayer Street.

Stripped coconut water

My taste buds got a shock at first because I wasn’t expecting the flavour. It didn’t really taste like fresh coconuts. It was quite sweet but not in a refreshing “ahhh-hhh” way. It felt quite heavy on my tongue and every mouthful left an aftertaste. I felt like something was coating my tongue. Still, I wasn’t one for wasting food so I forced myself to finish the drink over two days.

The second brand I tried was Munkijo, which I bought from sandwich and salad shop Cedele. The coconuts are organic and sourced from the Philippines.

Munkigo coconut water

Compared to Stripped, Munkigo was less sweet, which was expected because Philippine coconuts tend to be more bland as compared to their Thai counterparts. The texture of Munkigo drink, however, won by a mile. It had that refreshing tinge that I was familiar with and it didn’t have that strange and heavy aftertaste of Stripped. The only problem was that it wasn’t sweet enough for me. It was just kind of watered down.

You cannot beat the real thing both in terms of flavour and price. Thai coconuts are the best and I always order them when I’m having Thai cuisine. I’m so glad that I have easy access to the fresh stuff in Singapore and don’t have to rely on the packaged drinks for my coconut fix.

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If you want to use coconut water as an after-workout drink, then just pour the water out from the husk and you’ll all good to go!

6 thoughts on “Coconut water – the real deal vs the packaged drinks”

  1. Hi Paleorina,

    I’m a big coconut fan (drinker and eater), and I agree with you most of the stuff in the supermarket are loaded with junk. While nothing can beat the freshness and taste of the real deal, for convenience sake I do buy bottled coconut water. The brand I prefer most (I’ve tasted most brands out there) is Cocomax. I don’t think Munkijo tasted particularly bad or artificial, but I guess it’s also a matter of taste.

    1. Thanks Andre for your comments! I’m still on the hunt for a good bottled coconut water. Where do you get Cocomax from? I haven’t seen it around.

      Even though the taste of the drink isn’t as fresh as I would like, the good thing is that there’s nothing added so it’s still healthy 🙂

  2. Hey there,

    I agree with you. However, coconuts in the husk aren’t always available wherever I go. The next best thing for me is CoCoWater which comes in a packet. It’s refreshing and less sugary than those small coconuts seen in your pics above. Tastes pretty much like the large green coconuts I drink at East Coast hawker centre!

  3. Hello! My in-laws passed me some coconut oil and I did a search on it and lo and behold, am brought to your insightful, relatable and cute blog once again! Keep blogging :D.

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