Coconut water taste test

Author: Maya Kerthyasa
Photography: Jasmine Poole

The world is loco for coconut water. The drink, popular for its thirst-quenching properties and claimed health benefits, is everywhere at the moment - supermarkets, health-food shops, caf├ęs, even your local convenience store. But how do the packaged (and for the most part, processed) contenders match up against the real deal? We called on wine writer and show judge Mike Bennie, and resident coconut experts, GT chief restaurant critic Pat Nourse and staff writer Maya Kerthyasa, five-coconut-a-week enthusiasts both. The team blind-tasted 12 of the most widely available bottled coconut waters on the market, with a real coconut thrown in the mix as a control. The products were rated for their colour, aroma, taste and texture and given a score out of 30. Here are the results.

1. Beyond
Price: $2.21
Packaging: 250ml can
Listed ingredients: coconut water
Origin: Thailand
"To me that lactic texture is a bit palate coating," says Mike Bennie. "I think getting through a lot of that would probably be a little bit more challenging than something that's a bit cleaner." It loses points from Maya Kerthyasa for what she cites as its lack of flavour. "It tastes a bit stale," she says. Pat Nourse agrees, "It's just like water. It has no real notable texture or weight on the palate."
SCORE: 10/30

2. Celebes
Price: $2.25
Packaging: 350ml can
Listed ingredients: coconut water
Origin: Philippines
Celebes coconut water just isn't coconutty enough for our tasters. "It tastes flat to me," says Nourse. Kerthyasa finds the texture off-putting. "It's a bit creamy - it feels thicker than fresh coconut water." Bennie isn't a fan either. "There's sort of a gentle bitterness that doesn't really work too well in the framework of that coconut flavour profile," he says. "I find it pretty hard to enjoy."
SCORE: 6/30

3. Raw C
Price: $3.50
Packaging: 330ml Tetra Pak
Listed ingredients: coconut water
Origin: Thailand
"This one's a lot fresher than the other ones," says Kerthyasa, "a bit crisper." Bennie gives it points for its freshness, too. "I like that it's clean and fresh and it feels really unadorned," he says. "I would probably find that a little too sweet, but as a whole it's pleasing." The coconut factor, however, is still wanting. "If you sniff that really hard you get a little bit of an almost tropical coconutty thing going on there," says Nourse, "but you've really got to look for it."
SCORE: 16/30

4. UFC
Price: $4.95
Packaging: 1 litre Tetra Pak
Listed ingredients: coconut water 
Origin: Thailand
"It's the sweetest so far," says Nourse. "But it's not too cereal-milky, there's a suggestion of coconut there." Kerthyasa agrees, "It's sweeter than the last one and really fresh." Bennie isn't 100 per cent sold. "It's quite overtly sweet and it's got quite a glossy, oily texture, like a glycerol texture," he says.
SCORE: 14/30

5. King Island
Price: $4.95
Packaging: 1 litre Tetra Pak
Listed ingredients: coconut water
Origin: Thailand
The trio has mixed reactions to this one. The yellow colour, syrupy texture and savoury flavour lose points from Kerthyasa. "It feels like it's got something in it that's not coconut," she says. Nourse, on the other hand, finds it to be "the coconuttiest of them so far". Bennie picks up a husky, wholemeal-like flavour. "It's really wholemealy," he says. "It's also got that vegetal curiosity."
SCORE: 14/30

6. Real coconut
Price: around $5
Packaging: coconut 
Listed ingredients: N/A
Origin: Ours on the day of the tasting was from Thailand
Our tasters have no trouble picking the real thing instantly, even if they agree it's not the best example they've tasted. Unsurprisingly, they find that the real coconut water is everything they'd want it to be - clear in colour, sweet without being cloying and crisp in texture, with a clear and unmistakable perfume. "That tastes like real coconut," says Nourse. "It's like night and day on the nose." Bennie is blown away. "It's almost hyper-coconutty, almost like a caricature." It ticks all the boxes for Kerthyasa, too. "It smells like a real coconut," she says, "and you feel good after you drink that."
SCORE: 22/30



7. Ayam
Price: $1.99
Packaging: 320ml can
Listed ingredients: coconut juice, water, coconut pulp, sugar, preservative (223).
Origin: Thailand
This noticeably sweetened contender loses points for its added sugar content, which our tasters feel detracts from the natural coconut flavour. Nourse says, "It has a flavour, but it's not a fresh flavour. That sweetness really just clings to the palate." Kerthyasa, too, isn't sold. "It kind of tastes like sugar syrup mixed with water," she says. "The only coconutty component is the bits of flesh in the bottom." The sugar content holds no appeal for Bennie.
SCORE: 9/30

8. Nudie
Price: $3.49
Packaging: 330ml Tetra Pak
Listed ingredients: coconut water
Origin: Philippines
"This one has a bit of a scent to it," says Nourse. "There's not a lot there, though. I would describe that as wan." Nudie's coconut water, our tasters opine, doesn't offer any special natural coconut aroma and leaves a taste in the mouth that they don't find entirely pleasant. Kerthyasa, in particular, finds it bitter. Bennie, again, detects wholemeal. "I'm getting some of that husky, mealy aroma. Not a lot of flavour."
SCORE: 14/30

9. Cocobella
Price: $2.05
Packaging: 250ml Tetra Pak
Listed ingredients: coconut water
Origin: Indonesia
With our tasters noting a metallic quality to the scent, this example also fails to raise much enthusiasm in the taste stakes. "It looks refreshing, but it tastes bitter," says Kerthyasa. Bennie's main tasting notes are "vegetal and sour", while Nourse doesn't quite know what to make of the flavour. "I don't know what that tastes like, but it's not what I expect from the contents of a coconut," he says.
SCORE: 8/30

10. H2Coco
Price: $2.75
Packaging: 330ml Tetra Pak
Listed ingredients: coconut water, ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
Origin: Philippines
"Very neutral ," says Bennie. "To me, this is a nice version of coconut water at the non-sweet spectrum of the stuff that we've been seeing." Kerthyasa thinks the flavour is more acceptable than some of the other products, but struggles with the aftertaste. "I'd pick this over some of the others," she says. "It's got that same weird aftertaste though." It's "nothing special" for Nourse.
SCORE: 14/30

11. C Coconut Water
Price: $2.99
Packaging: 330ml Tetra Pak
Listed ingredients: coconut water 
Origin: Philippines
"It's devoid of flavour and personality," says Bennie. "I almost couldn't tell it was coconut water except for that little bit of huskiness at the end". Nourse agrees. "It's almost flavourless," he says, "but for a slightly wet coconut-husk note at the end, which I don't find entirely appealing. Kerthyasa concurs, "And it's got that creamy texture."
SCORE: 9/30

12. Absolute Organic
Price: $2
Packaging: 330ml Tetra Pak
Listed ingredients: coconut water 
Origin: Philippines
"I like the colour," says Kerthyasa. "It's not as yellow as the others and it smells quite coconutty as well." But the promise of the nose doesn't pay off in the taste. "That's again light and dilute," says Bennie. "It's a watery flavour rather than coconut." Nourse is on the same page. "Dilute," he says, "I agree."
SCORE: 10/30

13. Nakula
Price: $3.95
Packaging: 330ml can
Listed ingredients: coconut water 
Origin: Thailand
"That smells like a coconut," says Bennie. "It's not anchoring you into the nut, but it gives a suggestion." Mild nose aside, our tasters find Nakula, for the most part, pretty drinkable. "It's still very sweet," says Kerthyasa, "but this is probably one of the ones I would keep drinking." Nourse gives it points in the texture department. "It's not bad," he says, "but it has that cooked taste and it has a fainter cereal-milk taste. It' got a bit of texture to it that I quite like."
SCORE: 19/30

Our tasters' verdict? "There's only one or two I'd buy willingly," says Kerthyasa, singling out the Nakula and Raw C brands as her stand-outs. "I also think there's a long way to go before any of them get close to the real taste of water from a fresh young coconut, even if they're a lot easier to open."



SCOREBOARD

1. Real coconut 22/30

2. Nakula 19/30

3. Raw C 16/30

4. H2Coco 14/30

4. King Island 14/30

4. Nudie 14/30

4. UFC 14/30

5. Absolute Organic 10/30

5. Beyond 10/30

6. Ayam 9/30

6. C Coconut Water 9/30

7. Cocobella 8/30

8. Celebes 6/30

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