30 Jun 2013
Despite being available in bottled, can and fresh form for many years, coconut water has seen an explosion of interest in the health, fitness and grappling scene recently. This has coincided with a very visible and aggressive marketing campaign from several major brands. I test several commonly available (in the UK) brands of coconut water plus a real coconut.
I decided to do a blind tasting test. I poured samples of each drink (chilled) into identical wine glasses. Each glass was labelled at the base. I asked my kids to mix up the order of the drinks - though it was pretty easy to tell the real coconut water as it was very milky in appearance.
This is the most easily available brand of coconut water. I found it in Tesco's, Sainsbury's, Waitrose and a number of corner shops. Often, it is the only brand being sold. They also have a very strong marketing campaign, pushing free drinks, large posters and branded refrigerators at BJJ and fitness gyms up and down the country. It is sold in Tetrapak containers and comes in plain or a variety of mixed fruit flavours.
Taste test: it has a very strong coconut water scent but the taste is very mild, not too sweet or bland.
This brand is also easily found in supermarkets. The plastic bottle packaging looks a lot like posh upmarket mineral water. It was very similar to Vita Coco in scent and taste, possibly more mild but there was little to differentiate them.
The first of the tin can coconut water drinks. I found the scent to be very strong and the taste to be wildly sugary. Compared to Zico or Vita Coco, it did not taste pleasant.
The second of the tin can drinks, this actually had a very weak scent compared to the other brands, but the taste was by far the sweetest in flavour. There was also something slightly artificial to the flavour - almost like it had vanilla essence added. This was the only brand to be 100% pure coconut water. The others had sugar and water added to the ingredients.
I looked online to research ow to open it up - a simple wine bottle corkscrew happily did the job of opening up a pore by which to extract the water. The water was very milky but there was no detectable scent. The taste was somewhat salty with a slight hint of bitterness. It wasn't unpleasant but compared to the sweetness of the bottled and canned brands, it wasn't the most palatable.
Both Zico and Vita Coco easily tasted better than the canned brands. It's a shame they also contain a % of added sugar as the packaging and marketing of both seems to suggest they are a healthy alternative to bottled water. After an intense session in the gym, I do like hydrating with coconut water and based on this review, I will probably prefer to opt for Zico as my favourite brand. Sadly my children didn't rate any of the brands too highly!