It might be a little clichéd to start with a quote by Ghandi, but in this case it seems appropriate as he sums up succinctly why coconut sugar is fast becoming an alternative to more conventional sweeteners.
Coconut sugar is the name given to the evaporated nectar of the coconut palm tree. Used in Southeast Asia for thousands of years, the nectar is collected by ‘tappers’ – farmers who climb the tall palm trees, cut the coconut blossom, and collect the sap in bamboo containers. This nectar is then heated over log fires to evaporate the water and turn the nectar into sugar. (It is this latter process which is the reason that coconut sugar can’t be considered a raw food.)
But what prompted Ghandi to say it was a solution to world poverty? One of the most compelling reasons lies with the coconut tree itself. In addition to the nectar which provides farmers with their living, the tree also yields coconut water, coconut oil, coconut milk, and coconut flesh as well as all sorts of materials for construction. This is why it is sometimes colloquially referred to as the ‘tree of life’. Moreover, because coconut sugar cannot be produced in large-scale operations (the sugars ferment too quickly) tappers are able to maintain a stable income all year round by tapping palm trees each month to produce fresh sugar for consumption. It’s a truly sustainable operation.
In Java, where Ombars source their coconut sugar from, farming co-operatives are protected by organisations such as Hivos and Fairworld. Hivos is a humanitarian organisation working towards a fair, free and sustainable world. In the Kulon Progo province in central Java, Fairworld see to it that the harvesting and production of coconut sugar is carried out according to organic and fair trade principles. Fairworld are also members of Organic Alliance, an organisation striving to produce more organic products in Indonesia. Together, Fairworld and the Organic Alliance aim to provide an additional income for 2,000 families in Kulon Progo, Indonesia.
Nutritionally, coconut sugar is classified as a low glycaemic index (GI) food, which means you are less likely to experience a full-on sugar rush followed by the inevitable crash, though it should also be mentioned that coconut sugar is not significantly lower in calories. Coconut sugar also has a higher mineral content, containing 36 times the amount of iron than cane sugar does, as well as four times the amount of magnesium, and over 10 times the amount of zinc.
So, how can coconut sugar be used? It’s really no different to using cane sugar. It can be bought in granulated form and used in exactly the same way to ordinary cane sugar. You can use it in baking, add it to your coffee or tea or even make chocolate using it, which along with raw cacao is exactly what we do at Ombar.
Ombars are a range of organic raw chocolate bars which are all sweetened using coconut sugar. Some bars also contain probiotics or delicious freeze-dried organic fruit powders such as açai and goji berries which are well-known for their antioxidant properties. Ombars are available at all five Planet Organic Stores, click here to have a nosey.