Friday, 6 June 2014

Cocofina Products Review and a Give-away

Cocofina has been around as a company producing coconut water since 2005, so they can hardly be accused of jumping on the latest bandwagon promoting coconut products, such as oil and sugar, as healthier alternatives to 'mass market' oils and sugars. In fact, their website only makes a few health claims for it's oil and flower nectar, buried deep within the site, and the main selling point for the coconut water is that it is isotonic, making it a refreshing drink, suitable for post exercise rehydration. Since the company's beginning, Cocofina's range of products has increased to include oil, flower nectar, snack bars and three varieties of fruit-flavoured water.

When I was contacted by Cocofina, to see if I would be interested in reviewing their products, I asked to try the things I could use when cooking, such as the oil and flower nectar, so that I could write a review that fitted in with the main theme of my blog - baking. Along with these two products I received a bottle of coconut water and some organic snack bars, which are made from only raisins, dates, coconut and oats (or cocoa and cocoa nibs, depending on the variety of bar). These bars contain around 145 calories and Cocofina suggests they are eaten as a pre-workout snack.

While I was waiting for my samples to arrive, I researched the health claims for coconut products. Both the oil and flower nectar are expensive, so I hoped there would be some real benefits from using them in place of  the wide range of fats and sugars already available for cooking.

Frankly, the information available on potential health benefits is very confusing. Most claims are made by producers or retailers, and don't seem to me to be backed up by large scale medical-standard trials. For every website proclaiming the benefits, there is one refuting those claims.  There are even contradicting statements about whether or not production of nectar is harmful in the long-term, rather than a sustainable source of coconut products, as it's argued that bleeding the flowers for sap prevents the palm tree from ever producing coconuts. I certainly don't feel confident about recommending any particular online reading to you - if you are interested in finding out more, any web-search will give you plenty of sites to choose from.

From my extensive reading I gleaned these main points, which seem to me to be quite relevant:

#Coconut flower nectar has a low GI, which means the energy it contains is released slowly and doesn't play havoc with blood sugar levels. This makes it better to use than cane or beet sugar, maple syrup or honey.

#Although there are claims that coconut oil can play a part in lowering cholesterol levels, it has to be remembered that it is one of the most saturated of all the cooking oils on the market - it is solid at room temperatures below 25C.

#Coconut oil may have natural antibiotic properties - many people use it, in addition to regular dental hygiene, to keep their mouth and gums healthy.

When it came to using the products, I obviously had to try the flavours of the oil and flower nectar first. The oil, despite being solid at room temperature, has a very light feel in the mouth, and disappears quickly with no greasy residue; it tastes only slightly of coconut. It is also absorbed quickly into the skin, if you were to use it for cosmetic or toiletry purposes. I've already made a batch of brownies using the coconut oil, which I will be writing about in a separate post. All I'll say here is that I was very impressed with the results, which were as good a brownies made with butter. My first impression is that coconut oil makes a much better substitute for butter than other oils, for dairy-free or vegan cooking. The background flavour of coconut might be considered a downside - however much you like coconut, you don't want everything you make to taste of it!

The coconut flower nectar has a dark caramel colour and a consistency similar to maple syrup. The flavour is hard to describe - I thought it tasted like a strong honey with a touch of molasses. The strong flavour may make it an acquired taste for some people, but I can see if being a good substitute for honey in baking recipes. I'll be looking for recipes to try soon. Cocofina recommends it for sweetening drinks, baking, cooking and even spreading (on hot toast, presumably!). I drizzled a teaspoon of nectar over a dish of natural yogurt, to sweeten it a little, and it was delicious.

I have to admit that I didn't like the coconut water on it's own; the 4.7% natural sugars present made it too sweet for my taste, but it did taste good when used to dilute pomegranate molasses or lime cordial to make a refreshing fruit flavoured drink.

The snack bars were delicious and made an almost guilt-free snack for someone perpetually worried about calorie intake. Around 145 calories of almost 100% fruit/coconut, with no added sugars, also made a good midday 'meal' on days when I was fasting on the 5:2 diet - a nice change from a bowl of salad!

This brings me to the 'give-away'. Cocofina have offered a case of 24 delicious Organic Coconut and Date Snack Bars to one of my UK-based readers. To be included in the draw for the prize, I'd like you to leave a comment telling me your favourite culinary use, or recipe, for any coconut product, including good old-fashioned desiccated coconut. Please leave an email address, or other means of contact, in your comment so that I can get in touch if you are the winner. The winner will be randomly picked on 20th July.

Disclaimer - although I was approached by Cocofina and asked to review their products, they have not exerted any influence over what I have written; all opinions expressed are my own.


The winner is Debbie Costley aka Busybee - congratulations. Please get in touch via my email address here, or see my PM on Wildfood.


Alicia Foodycat said...

I haven't even heard of coconut flower nectar!

I love coconut - I use coconut water quite a lot in cooking instead of coconut milk to reduce the calories (there's a Vietnamese lemongrass chicken recipe I'll hook you up with that is delicious) but I think my very, very favourite way of eating coconut is in a bounty bar *blush*.

Suelle said...

Nothing to be ashamed of - I love Bounty bars too! :)

Debbie Costley said...

Love coconut, my late Grandma's desiccated coconut pyramids were the best. Slightly claggy and sweet, luscious!


Lee Donovan said...

I love coconut in all forms, and had also never heard about coconut flower nectar.

Jude said...

Another Bounty lover here although I have yet to try them deep fried a la Nigella. My favourite coconut recipe comes in Thai green curry however.

Lee Donovan said...

I forgot to leave a specific dish. Currently it would be the beef penang curry from our local thai lunch spot.

A more perennial spot would be Mum's coconut sponge.

But of all time. Just plain fresh coconut sold on the beach in Spain when I was a child by a man with a bucket and a loud call of: El coco rrrrrrriiiiicooooo, El Rico coco...

Zosherooney said...

About 30 years ago we went to Brazil (topic of the moment) and drove to a place called Buzios (made famous by Brigette Bardot in the 1960's). Whilst there we ate in a restaurant that served a dish called mixed fish in Portuguese. It consisted of mixed bell peppers, onions, garlic, saffron and mixed locally fresh fish in the most delicious sauce made of cream of coconut, dessicated coconut and some fish stock. We have re-created it many times in the UK and is one of our favourite meals served with jasmine rice. Totally Tropical ! Zosherooney

Anonymous said...

Plain chocolate Bounty Bars (not o easy to get these days) & Raspberry Ruffles.

Then there is Thai Green curry, lime & coconut cake, those Chinese coconut buns.... So much coconut, so little time!

Dee (Wildfood & formerly theBBC board)

Anonymous said...

I love coconut in all its forms. Cake, Bounty bars, curry etc etc. One of my favourites is an Ainsley Herriot recipe for a Caribbean style chicken dish with mango & coconut

Princess Sparkles

Anonymous said...

I'm torn between fresh, Delia's Thai, Bounty, and Anzacs....decisions, decisions. 😃😃

Amber c/o FB or WF

Choclette said...

That's a very good and fair review you've written Suelle.

I'm a big fan of coconut, whatever form it comes in. Thai green curry is a firm favourite, the chocolate coconut bars I recently made are really good - a bit like a bounty but not nearly as sweet. And I use coconut oil in baking from time to time - all to good effect.

Having tried the snack bars, I'd be very happy to get a whole box of them.

Anonymous said...

I love coconut ice cream (preferably roskilly's) and a good piña colada. Then it occurred to me that a rather good hybrid could be made by substituting the coconut water with the Icecream - a rather more grown up 'float'.


"Hope" said...

I love coconut, but only in sweet things. I made some coconut and mango ice cream recently with just coconut milk and fresh mango, which was lovely.

I need to make a bounty bar - love them, but they are too sugary!

Leo James said...

I love coconut in savoury and sweet. I like to use creamed coconut in curries and my children and I like to drink the water, especially straight from the coconut, but I'm intrigued by the nectar, I must try that.

Leo / Cheshire-cheese

Leo James said...

Hope this isn't a duplicate, the form signed me in after I'd commented, then my comment seemed to go blank. I like to use creamed coconut or coconut milk in curries. Must try the nectar, though, sounds interesting.


snowy said...

I love making coconut ice, the old fashioned one which is pink and white, and which uses dessicated coconut.
Coconut flower nectar sounds unusual - something new to try.