Q. What does it taste like?
It is subtly sweet almost like brown sugar but with a light hint of caramel. Coconut sugar's color, sweetness and flavor can vary slightly from packaging to packaging depending on the coconut species used, season when it was harvested, where it was harvested and the way the "sap" or "toddy" was reduced. Coconut sugar is not highly processed unlike brown or regular white sugar which has a consistent taste from box to box.
Q. Is it safe to use?
Coconut sugar has been around for many years and has been used as a traditional sweetener for generations mostly in South East Asian countries. Coconut sugar is safe to use for diabetics as research show that coconut sugar does not increase blood sugar glucose levels, instead it is slowly released into the blood stream to maintain the glycemic index (GI) level of a person even those who are diabetics.
Q. Is it USDA certified organic?
Some brands are and they have the USDA certified organic label on the packaging. One of those companies that have USDA certified label "Organic Coconut Palm Sugar" by Sweet Tree Farms. Another one is the "Sweet Tooth Organic Coconut Palm Sugar" by Navitas Naturals. As the industry matures, we expect to see a lot more producers bearing the USDA certified organic coconut sugar.
Q. Can you use it as a 1:1 sugar substitute? Can I use it in place of agave?
Yes. The taste is not as sweet as regular sugar so if you want it to be as sweet as regular cane sugar, then you have to use more of it. Remember that it is sugar so eating it with a spoon is not recommended. You can use it however for your coffee, tea, baking and cooking.
Q. Where do I buy Coconut Sugar?
You can ask your local Asian stores and see if they carry coconut sugar. The most convenient would be to buy coconut sugar online.
Q. Coconut sugar has a lot of nutrients but how does it compare with other sugars and sugar substitutes?
The Philippine Food and Nutrition Research Institute released a report about their analysis of nutritive values found in coconut sugar as compared to other sugars and sugar substitutes.
Q. Is coconut sugar a new invention? Where does it come from?
Coconut sugar is not new. In fact, it has been around for generations and has been used as a traditional sweetener in places where the coconut tree is abundant (mostly South East Asian Nations). The largest producers of coconut in the world is the Philippines. Not all coconut trees can be used for making coconut sugar though and there are certain species which can be used. Typically, coconut sugar comes from the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia.
Q. Is Coconut sugar and Palm sugar the same?
Technically yes but not all palm sugars are coconut sugars and it is important to make that distinction. In Thai cuisine for example, palm sugar and "coconut sugar" (nahm dtahn bpeep/buk and nahm dtahn maprao) are used interchangeably. Coconut Palm Sugar (Coconut Sugar or Coco Sugar) is derived from the blossoms (flowers) of the coconut tree. Palm Sugar comes from Palmyra Palm tree or sugar palm. When buying coconut sugars, make sure that they are made from 100% coconut palm or coconut sap.
Q. I have seen websites that sell coconut sugar in "paste" form as well as solid blocks, syrup-like, and even granulated form and some are even in different shades of brown - are all these coconut sugar?
Coconut sugar comes from the sap of coconut blossoms. The sap collected is known as a "toddy" and this toddy is evaporated which in turns make it solid. This evaporation process could be adjusted to produce many variants of toddy from lighter to darker with equal variation in flavor. It depends on the manufacturer to determine viscosity and flavor. This same evaporation process determines whether the end product will be crystal, paste, syrup or it can undergo further refinement and granulation. Essentially, Coconut sugar's form will depend on the amount of moisture that is still left in the toddy.
Q. Is Coconut Sugar sustainable?
Some websites claim that according to a report release by the Food and Agriculture Association of the United Nations (http://www.fao.org), it is the single most sustainable sweetener in the world! The accuracy of this statement is currently unknown because no one has found the actual report and therefore cannot be verified completely. However, there are several factors that support that claim such as:
- Coconut trees can grow in severely compromised soil and needs very little water to produce the sweet nectar that is used to make coconut sugar.
- Coconuts produce inflorescences about every 3-4 months. What this means is that there are usually multiple flower stalks on a single tree which in turn means that a coconut farmer can actually choose to harvest sugar from one flower stalk and let the other stalk mature to coconuts.
- Once a coconut tree is tapped, the sap will flow continuously for the next 20 years. This roughly equates to about 5,000 liters per hectare. From a sustainability standpoint, this is about 5-7 times higher per hectare that coconut oil production.
- The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) released a report claiming that the process of making coconut palm oil is a major contributor to deforestation and and habitat loss of the Orang Utans. This is still hotly debated topic but irrelevant to coconut sugar production. Coconut Sugar is not produced from the same palm species as is used for the production of Coconut Palm Oil.
- The Coconut tree is an ecologically beneficial tree crop that grows in diverse, wild-life supportive agro-ecosystems.
- Coconut Palms are considered the “Tree of Life” by many traditional communities throughout the world as they provide over 100 smallholder accessible products from which to make livelihoods. The production of Coconut Sugar has the single highest potential for lifting these farmers into a better life while creating a net benefit to their surrounding environment.
- Due to the coconut tree's economic impact, most if not all coconut producing countries have programs that manage, protect and maintain coconut production. In the Philippines for instance, the Philippine Coconut Authority is a government agency whose sole mandate is to ensure the growth and development of the coconut industry.
- Studies made by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) show that half of the length of coconut spadix can be tapped without significant effect on its production of nuts. With proper management, it is actually possible to have two products from a single spadix, sugar and nuts