Have you tried coconut water yet? Since the commercial-scale introduction of coconut water to the US in 2004, this product has experienced a surge in popularity unrivaled even by pop stars or charismatic politicians. If you’re not familiar with coconut water (sometimes called coconut juice), it’s the liquid inside young, green coconuts. Clear or slightly yellow in color, coconut water has a delicate flavor and contains no fat. Coconut water should not be confused with coconut milk, which is an opaque, white liquid, high in fat, used mostly for cooking. Fresh coconut water has been consumed for millennia in the tropics. Those of us who live in cooler climes, however, have access only to the shelf-stable, pasteurized varieties in cans or tetrapaks (the rectangular, recyclable containers used so often for shelf-stable beverages). At least, that was the case until Harmless Harvest came along.
Using a technology relatively new to the food industry, Harmless Harvest offers a raw, organic coconut water. Their coconut water is treated to eliminate pathogens (bacteria unfriendly to humans), but the treatment is done with pressure, not heat. This type of treatment, called HPP or High Pressure Processing, minimally affects the flavor of products, unlike heat pasteurization, which is known to change taste significantly. As I write this, I finished an article on coconut water last week for another website. I tasted 43 coconut waters, and the one I tried from Harmless Harvest really was like a different product. It was much more complex and nuanced than other coconut waters I tried.
But that’s not the only reason I like this small company. I talked to one of the two heads of this business for over an hour. He’s done his research, but more importantly he’s genuinely concerned about the type of product he’s bringing to market, and how it will be marketed. It’s taken these folks roughly two and a half years to get everything in this product to their satisfaction, from sourcing (farms in northern and central Thailand who have never used pesticides) to keeping coconut water’s nutrient integrity.
The emphasis isn’t on trying to convince you that coconut water is responsible for miracle cures or which celebrities they can pay to drink their coconut water. Instead, the focus here is on the product: how it tastes, how it’s obtained, keeping it safe for consumers. Call me crazy, but I think that’s the way companies should be.
Harmless Harvest will be sold exclusively at Whole Foods Markets until December of 2011 (you might have trouble finding it outside of the NY/NJ area until autumn); look for it in the refrigerated foods section. As usual, I urge you to do your own coconut water taste tests (though you needn’t try 43 kinds!) and see what you like. But I regard this coconut water as something special.