Coconut Water: An Ancient Drink For A New Millennium
CAPSULE REPORT: “Nature’s sports drink.” “Rehydrates more effectively than water.” “The only naturally isotonic beverage!” “More nutritious than whole milk.”
Perhaps you’ve seen these and other claims about coconut water (a.k.a. coconut juice), the drinkable darling of the moment. But what is coconut water? And do the claims have any validity?
This week’s Top Pick takes on these and other questions.
Coconut water is relatively new to the U.S., but has been consumed for millennia in tropical countries, where the green coconuts that contain the water can be plucked from the trees.
Coconut water has become impressively fashionable in America in just a few short years. When Vita Coco was introduced here in 2004, coconut water had minimal visibility and sales were confined to certain ethnic neighborhoods. Now, celebrities are regularly photographed drinking it.
A mere five years later, according to a Merrill Lynch report, sales of coconut water were about $35 million. But growth since then has been even more impressive: U.S. coconut water sales will top $350 million this year.
We drink our fair share of coconut water. But we wonder:
- Are the purported health benefits accurate?
- Which brands taste the best?
- What about the flavors, the powders, the pasteurized versions and the “not from concentrate” varieties?
Where Does Coconut Water Come From?
The lucky ones among us have enjoyed coconut water at a tropical beach—or in an urban Chinatown restaurant or juice bar—where you can sip the juice from a just-opened green coconut. Sometimes the green rind is carved away to reveal the pristine white mesocarp* layer underneath, free of any bruises that can occur from harvesting the tender fruit.
Fresh coconut water is a treat, and it's tastier than the pasteurized products. Put it on your food bucket list. In the interim, there’s a plentiful selection of packaged brands for you to explore. We’ve reviewed 14 brands, including plain and flavored coconut waters.
Check out the article index below and decide where to start.
— Stephanie Zonis
*Some botanical families of fruit have a three-layer pericarp instead of a simple rind or skin: the exocarp (outer layer), mesocarp (middle layer) and endocarp (inner layer).