If you eat too much, you’ll get very fat
Now, the coconut nut is a big, big nut
But its delicious nut is not a nut.
composed by Ryan Cayabyab
At first I think it’s panocha, a type of brown sugar made from a concentrate evaporated from sugarcane extract. Usually sold on half a coconut shell, it’s what’s usually sprinkled on top of bibingka (rice cake). A muted caramel in color, it’s sweet (but of course), and cleanly so, without any of the cloyingness that ordinary white sugar has. No, it doesn’t taste like coconut and yes, I’m crazy about it. That it’s low in calories and sugar free is a sweet plus.
This is coconut sugar, a sugar made from the watery sap that drips from the coconut tree’s cut flower buds. Already a hardcore sugar fan, I’m ecstatic about adding another type of sugar to my already very sweet collection of sugary favorites. This coconut sugar has replaced my muscovado for now as my sweetener of choice in my afternoon cup of coffee. And naturally, when I’m nuts about something (pun intended), I must find out all about it.
This coconut sugar is made by Mr. Coconut International, a local manufacturing company that’s been producing quality coconut products for 40 years. Jon Javier, the company owner’s son tells me, “Aside from producing coconut products, my family has been producing pharmaceutical trade oils, or what’s more commonly known as coconut oil, even before it became popular. ”
Wanting to introduce the versatility of the coconut to a wider audience, the company launched their retail line, Mr. Coconut, in 2004. “The Mr. Coconut concept came from our desire to have the products on the market,” explains Jon. “It started out as a juice bar that had all the product lines that coconut can offer: skin and body products and the vinegar, sugar, and jam. From there the brand came out and things happened very quickly.”
It’s a most opportune time for these coconut products to come out since the focus now is on wellness and an organic produce-based lifestyle. Jon enlisted the help of two friends to help him with Mr. Coconut, Anna Co and Ango Dimagiba. Ango is in charge of Operations while Anna is responsible for Human Resources “… troubleshooting and everything else actually, ” she laughs. Jon describes their working relationship as “… a good partnership, it’s well-balanced and our respective strengths can be used.”
Mr. Coconut’s product line begins with the juice (P30), a cold beverage made from the coconut meat (not the juice) with a little sweetener added to it. White in color, it reminds me of a virgin piÃ±a colada. To me, a diehard coconut lover however, it tastes like sweetened gata (coconut milk). I like it very much, though it could do with a little less sugar.
The bath and body line includes a lotion (P149), and a milk bath soap (P80), both of which include virgin coconut oil. The group is quick to enumerate the many benefits of coconut oil, and its uses in cooking, a moisturizer for the skin and scalp, and as an overall health supplement that can be taken daily. There’s also a dry oil mist (P149/110 ml) that comes in several fragrances and is lighter on the skin than the regular coconut oil.
As we talk, I’m sipping my Mr. Coconut juice and I ask how the coconut oil is made. The extra virgin coconut oil (P199/250 ml) is Mr. Coconut’s banner product and bestseller as well as the juice. “Actually, the oil is made from the coconut meat. It’s fermented and the oil floats to the top,” Jon replies. I do a double-take and immediately stop mid-sip. “You mean I’m drinking oil???” I ask half-jokingly. Jon, Anna, and Ango laugh. “It’s totally safe, Lori. It’s a different process, you know.” Jon adds, ”Our coconut oil is made the natural way without high heat or chemicals. That’s why it doesn’t taste sunog (burned) or rancid. It’s the purest coconut oil there is. We even offer taste tests of the oil and the other products.” As Jon talks, I notice that he’s wearing a shirt with the words Mr. Coconut on it. Mr. Coconut he rightfully is ”“ the man knows so darn much about coconuts!
The food line at Mr. Coconut is a triumvirate of the vinegar (P55/P59), coco jam (P130), and my now beloved coconut sugar (P199). “We have to cut the stem and extract the sap,” Jon elucidates. “There’s a certain temperature, time, and acidity needed to produce the sugar. It’s a little bit tedious — one kilo of sugar requires gallons of coconut sap.” Currently, the group is looking at options to repackage the sugar and supply it to restaurants. “It’s incredibly healthy,” the group agrees. “There’s no cane sugar in this product, just 100% coconut. It’s very high in vitamin C and amino acids.” “And it doesn’t increase your blood sugar level,” Ango adds. “Even my diabetic dad takes it.”
While I have yet to see if the coconut sugar works in baking, I get even more excited when Jon tells me that they’re working on a coconut flour that would be naturally high in fiber. Whoa, this baker’s all set! Also in the pipeline are coconut chips similar to soy chips, lip balms, shampoos, and coconut soap with exfoliants. “Our products are their own advertising,” Ango concludes. “They’re all organic and good for health.”