By Lisa Elaine Held
There are two situations in which I generally drink coconut water. One: on a tropical beach from a coconut that has recently been picked from a nearby tree and hacked open with a machete. Two: when I’m terribly hungover. Otherwise, it’s not really my thing.
Bottles of every shape and size and with every sourcing story and upgraded processing method have come across my desk over the past 10 years. I’ve tasted them all and always had a reaction that sounds a lot like “meh.” Bottled and shipped, it’s always tasted sort of flat and stale to me. Not really like coconut at all. Not really refreshing. Plus, I try to avoid plastic bottles as much as possible and I don’t love the idea of drinking something that’s been shipped across the world to satisfy my thirst. (Yes, I drink coffee, and it’s totally the same thing, but, um, I need it.)
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Then, I tried CoAqua, and my eyes bulged out of my head. It actually tastes like that coconut on the beach scenario. It’s sweet and refreshing and oh-my-god so coconut-y. It tastes like a totally different drink. And it was created by a globetrotting environmentalist (who also happened to be the creative director and live production designer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers for a decade) with a mission centered on sustainability.
I figured I should find out more, so I chatted with founder Grier Govorko to find out why CoAqua just might be the best bottled coconut water yet.
A Q&A with CoAqua Founder Grier Govorko
You’ve got a really interesting background. How did you get into coconut water? There’s really no logical progression. I was working on an eco-resort project in the south of Thailand, and it ended up going south. So there I was living in Thailand, and I was like, “I wonder what else I could do while I’m living here.” I knew some people who had invested in VitaCoco…and it was going well. But I thought, “it doesn’t taste good, it doesn’t really look good.” I decided nobody was doing the coconut justice. That was the genesis of the whole endeavor.
Most important question: Why does CoAqua taste so good? There are a couple of things. Generally speaking, most of the big companies aside from Harmless Harvest are sourcing from big operations and the coconuts are just too old. At about six months old they have the highest sugar content, so if you pick it at that point, it’s a much sweeter water. We source the freshest young green coconuts from Southern Vietnam. Then, because it’s in glass, when we pasteurize, the heat sort of carmelizes the sugar.
But a lot of people don’t want pasteurized because the process can degrade nutrients. My feeling about that is two-fold: The amount of difference in nutrients is negligible at best. I can understand why they’re saying it, but the flipside is: Is it better for everybody in general to have less plastics in the world? If 5,000 people get a marginally better product but seven billion people have to deal with more plastic in the ocean as a net result of that, is that better? [Editor’s note: HPP, the process that kills microbes via pressure, used by companies that want to avoid pasteurization, can’t be used on glass.]
How’d you get so passionate about plastic? I owned a small house on an island in southern Thailand which I lost in the tsunami. It was really remote. There were 30 houses on the entire island, no shops. Even on that beach, there’s plastic washing up. That set off a little thing in my head.
What about my hang-up about drinking coconut water at all from a sustainability perspective? Wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t get it shipped around the world to us at all? If I only drank coconut water when coconuts were growing nearby? I guess you’ve got to draw a line in the sand somewhere. I don’t think I’m building a rocket to Mars. I can only do what I can do, and this is what I’m doing, and within the context of what I’m doing, I’m going to do it the best I can with those concerns in mind. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than what it could be, and as we progress, we can all try to make better and better decisions going forward.
(Featured Photo: Shutterstock)