You know how freshly squeezed apple juice tastes more appley and therefore infinitely better than bottled apple juice? Coconut water is the same way. I’ve heard quite a few people shake their heads at the coconut water trend, remarking that they simply don’t like the taste of coconut water. And for the most part, I agree with them.*
“But,” I say to these skeptics, “Have you tried the original coconut water?” No, it’s not some brand name; it’s simply coconut water straight from the coconut. You see, coconut water straight from the coconut is a different story than the bottled stuff. Light and refreshing, it’s a delicious afternoon beverage on a hot summer afternoon when another cup of caffeine would make you jittery or it’s too early for a cocktail. I also find coconut water to be the perfect tonic whenever I get a headache, which makes sense because coconut water contains a good bit of potassium. Besides tasting more delicious than bottled coconut water, the other plus of “making” your own coconut water is that you can snack on the coconut flesh after you drain the coconut. When you buy a whole coconut, you’re getting two tasty treats for the price of one. (Just make sure you have an ax lying around to break open the coconut.)
Coconuts aren’t too tricky to come by. We buy our coconuts at a Chinese produce store for $2 each, but they’re also available at Safeway and Whole Foods for a bit more than that. Sam is our master coconut selector, and he always looks for the biggest coconut and shakes it to hear the water sloshing around inside. Try to choose one that sounds like it has the most water inside.
And remember, terroir, the concept that the land where the food is grown affects its taste, isn’t limited to wine—coconut water tastes different based upon where the coconuts are grown. If you shop at a store like The Berkeley Bowl that sells coconuts from different parts of the world, try a few to see which one you like best. Are you a Thai coconut lover or is the Caribbean coconut more your thing? Or maybe the Florida coconuts hit the spot.
Once you buy your coconut, it’s time to crack out the hammer and screwdriver (or other sharp, pointy object). Place the pointed edge of the screwdriver over one of the eyes of the coconut, and tap the screwdriver with the hammer until the screwdriver completely pierces the flesh. Once the screwdriver breaks through, wiggle it around to make the hole a little bigger. Remove the screwdriver from the coconut and invert the coconut on a tall, narrow receptacle. We like to use a glass measuring cup. Let the water drain from the coconut for a few minutes, shaking the coconut to coax those final few drops out. Fill two glasses with ice, pour the coconut water over the ice and serve. The ice part is really important—coconut water tastes best when chilled.
*I do think Taste Nirvana’s Real Coconut Water with pulp come pretty close to the real thing—and they’re not paying me to say this. Confession: In the middle of writing this post I was struck by a strong craving for coconut water. Since we’d already polished off the coconut water pictured in the blog, I walked to the store and bought some of this Taste Nirvana. Still! Try making your own coconut water—it’s fun!