Is Coconut Water as “Good” as Everyone Says it is?

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Is Coconut Water as “Good” as Everyone Says it is?

We are a culture of crazes, trends, and movements.  From unboxing videos to crates of loot to Fitbits, we all seem to go a little crazy for some “new” thing.  

Today I will be taking a look at the ever-so-popular coconut water trend that seems to be taking the country by healthful storm.

I’m a thirsty guy, so I love me a tall, cold drink.  My relationship with water has been growing stronger these last few years, but lately I’ve been checking out the latest thirst-quencher in town: coconut water.  

There are many brands and flavor options when it comes to the crazed coconut water.  As I have personally not yet had the pleasure of experiencing the water before this article, I felt a bit nervous about what to try or where to even begin.

Fortunately, the local 7-11 by my work stocks their own brand of coconut water -GO! Smart Coconut Water.  So they are first on my list.  This water advertises itself as “100% natural” and made from single-source Brazilian green coconuts.  It claims to be gluten free and a “good source of potassium.”  So it seems about as healthy as anything could be from a 7-11.   But what about taste?  My own 7-11 offered two flavor choices: regular coconut water or pineapple coconut water.  I chose the regular.

Image via Twitter

Image via Twitter

My first sip was. . . interesting.

If any flavor in the world could be described purely as the color green, it would be 7-Select GO! Smart Coconut Water.  The key flavors of the drink seem to be sweet potato-ish with a metallic tinge rooted in a nuttiness that may or may not be of the coco- variety.  Absolutely nothing like the classic flavor of the brown coconuts we are all familiar with.  We are not off to a good start.

Unfortunately, I am definitely not a fan of the flavor.  Forcing myself to gulp down a few more swallows of the beverage was one of the harder choices I have made this year.  I put forward a relative effort to not be a wasteful person but I could not bring myself to finish the water, and at $2.99 per bottle, this was an expensive failed experiment.

This made me wonder if the pineapple-flavored coconut water would be better, but the price point steered me away from attempting another taste-test.

Hopefully,the next brands will be better.

A few days later, I recruited my good friend Ema to come along with me and try some different coconut waters.  As I am only a poor college student, I could only afford to really grab two (I know, it’s a very small sample size to be making sweeping generalizations about a whole group of products): VitaCoco and C2O brand coconut waters, purchased from our local Walmart.

First up was VitaCoco, which advertises itself as “pure” coconut water that is “never from concentrate”.  “This is the coconut water my mom likes,” Ema quipped.  

Was this water made with baby-food-flavored coconuts, perhaps?

Was this water made with baby-food-flavored coconuts, perhaps?

The light blue box was twist-off and cardboard.  It advertised to “hydrate naturally”.  A thought occurred to me while reading this: “wouldn’t I just want to drink water to hydrate naturally?”

Anyways, we sniffed the open container for flavor notes before tasting — and it was a pungent, earthy, awful smell.  We shared a laugh over our grossed-out faces and I took the first sip.  Ema tried some as well.  Her first remark was that the water tasted like “baby food.”  As my friend is a mother, she would understand.  To me, the water tasted much like the first one — like stale sweet potatoes and vegetable mush.  Neither of us opted to finish the drink, and another coconut water went down the drain.  Wasteful, we know.

Next came C2O “pure coconut water” in a heavy aluminum can.  Scanning over the can, I noticed, in light-blue tiny print, the words saying “This is an all-natural product.  Taste may vary.”  This is true if they meant “varied from the taste of coconuts.”

A large can of "no"

A large can of “no”

After the previous water, neither of us were particularly enthralled to try our next one.  But we persevered.  We took a sip each and the reactions were invariably similar.  We grimaced and swallowed.  This water tasted a little better than either VitaCoco or 7/11’s brand of coconut water, but not by much.  It’s like preferring a slightly less burnt meal over a completely burnt meal.  It’s still burnt and gross, but slightly better.

Total, I tried three coconut water brands.  Neither really tasted all that great but I had questions beyond that.  Why do these waters taste so unfortunate?  Why do people keep claiming that they taste so great?  Is it the pure “health” aspect of the water, tossing away taste like we toss kale on a salad, wantonly and without consideration of the consequences?

I cannot answer all of these questions –not in this article at least– but I can answer one: why these waters taste the way they do.  

The short answer is that the waters grow stale from canning/boxing to shipping to arriving on the store shelf to being opened and consumed.  The long answer is that sometimes the types of coconuts used, depending on location, ripeness, and many other growth factors, heavily influencing original flavor — coupled with long processing and shipping times, and the waters begin to take on a distinctive stale vegetable taste.  

According to an article from Quora, coconuts lose their freshness within 24-36 hours, even under refrigeration.  And more freshness is lost over the course of chilling and pasteurizing coconut waters.

Essentially, the best way to get your hands on that fresh coconut water taste is to crack open an actual fresh coconut and drink the water straight from the source.  

This was a fun adventure into the world of a small-scale “health craze.”  Coconut water has been blowing up all over the place and is sold in pretty much any place with a refrigerator and a shelf.  From my limited “experiment,” I conclude that coconut water is not as “good” as people make it out to be –at least in the taste department.  I’m not about to dip my toe into the roaring river bank that is the debate around whether or not certain “health” foods are actually healthy or succeed in doing what they advertise.  That’s a monster for another day.

So is coconut water as “good” as everyone says it is?  Flavor-wise, no, no it’s not