My first experience with coconut water came during a trip to the dark depths of the Everglades. And by dark depths I mean the tourist walkways in the Everglades National Park but it was overcast and there were alligators everywhere, one even tried to attack me. And by attack me I mean it swam towards me with a sinister look in its eye and then disappeared into the murky depths, preparing itself to pounce upon me at any moment for being too close to its precious baby gators. Seriously, here's a picture of the angry mother right before she turned towards me and sank; I imagine she's still there at the bottom of that roadside swamp, waiting for me to return.
Anyway, seeing all of the coconut palms about, our foreign guests told us that you can drill a hole in the green ones and drink the water inside. Not only is it delicious but it's supposed to be highly nutritious as well. So being the adventurous types, we left the safety of the National Park and went straight to a roadside market called Robert Is Here to lawfully purchase our green coconut. The water wasn't that bad but it also wasn't very good either. Rather bland with a heavy consistency; not the crisp, mildly sweet, juice we had been expecting.
The next day we decided to take it one step further with some real adventure and created a teetering tower of flesh in order to procure a coconut from a roadside palm in one of the Keys. This one turned out to be even more disappointing as there was no water in it at all and the flesh didn't taste very nice either. So the dream was dead and my curiosity about coconut water disappeared with the green flash of the setting sun in Key West.
But then Whole Foods opened up nearby and they carry cartons of the stuff made by a company called O.N.E. (One Natural Experience) who also manufacture the Cashew Juice I previously wrote about.
Coconut water is the liquid from the innards of of a young, green coconut. The liquid and gelatinous meat eventual becomes the solid coconut meat we are all used to seeing and from with coconut milk is extracted. While mature coconut meat and coconut milk are high in oils, coconut water has no fat and it fairly low in calories despite its sweet flavor. It is also provides five essential electrolytes: calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, sodium, and potassium (of which it has more than a banana).
There's not much of an aroma beyond a faint smell of vegetation. The liquid is slightly cloudy but without coloration. It's easy to fathom why some countries offer this as a sports drink because it's quite crisp and refreshing. Despite the sweetness, it doesn't suck the moisture out of your mouth or burn as drinks high in sugar are likely to do. As for the taste, the typical coconut flavor is definitely noticeable but there is a more vegetative quality to it; I'm reminded of chewing on sugar cane or a mango peel. Overall a nice drink and something that could easily serve as a substitute or complement to other more common fruit juices.
You can go for the authentic, straight-from-the-coconut experience but, taste-wise, it seems to be the luck of the draw. I'd certainly like to try again but I'll keep a couple cartons of the prepackaged variety around in case of further disappointment.