Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Coco Sugar

The Philippines is the largest producer of Coco Sugar. Made from the sap of the cut flower buds from the coconut tree, the coco sugar is full of beneficial properties, even for people with diabetes. Coco sugar has been used around Asia for centuries as a natural sweetener, but the true nutritional properties of the sugar have only been discovered in the last two decades. The Philippines is abundant in coconut trees, and in export of coconut produce. Due to the recent western interest in coco sugar, many coco farmers have taken to producing coco sugar/syrup for the foreign market. It has been reported that the benefits of coco sugar have been so evident, that health stores are selling out in record time.

People want in, and because of this, many companies are buying coco sugar from producers, putting the goods in their own packaging, and reaping the financial rewards, which exploits the rights of the farmers who produced the sugar in the first place. We met a young man called Vip, whilst in Cebu, and he told us about his endeavor to help small coconut farmers to producer, market and sell their own coco sugar. Vip was briefly in politics, before researching and developing a plan to help farmers in Cebu build up their self-esteem, by being businessmen as well as farmers, teaching them ways of not being cheated, and understanding the market of their product. His coco sugar project, called the Argao Coco Suagr Producer’s Coop,  has been hugely successful with new farmers even coming to his house in the middle of the night to be let on the programme. When we spoke to him, he told us his latest plan was to invest in dwarf coconut trees, which means the farmer’s are not dangering their lives, and wasting time by climbing 30-50meter high trees.

The process is nearly always organic, varying every batch made. This is entirely dependant on the tree and the minor time differences in the cooking process. Vip told us, the best way to extract sap from a coconut tree is to prevent the fruit from growing and placing natural tubes in the sap producing part of the flower buds. This gives a greater amount of sap then if they were to extract it from the bark with the fruits still being produced. The sap is then collected, and before it ferments, it has to be cooked instantly. The heat temperature and the timing is curtail in retaining the nutritional benefits of the sugar.

The taste of coco sugar is not as sweet as normal white sugar, but it has a caramel after taste, which is nice when used in baking and with tea and coffee. It also has a subtle taste of coconut that means Philippinos eat it almost as if it were a sweet. Why not when the glycemic index is 35, and when it has 10 times the amount of zinc then that found in brown sugar. We were even told that we could eat as much coco sugar as we pleased in one seating with out it having a negative effect on our bodies like sugar would. 

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