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