Indonesia’s Java island is the size of the United Kingdom and has twice the population, mostly gathered in the cities on its shores. Along Java’s green volcanic spine are found some of the most fertile lands on earth, bathed by tropical rains and warmed by tropical sunshine. Here are located the 600 family farms that produce Holos Integra organic coconut sugar.
Dominiq Haliman founded the company Holos Integra five years ago. She first planned to produce and market milk-free ice cream, but during this process she discovered the great advantages of coconut sugar and then decided to invest in this ingredient. “For this ice cream I used coconut blossom sugar and I was impressed by this product, the coconut blossom sugar gave the ice cream a great taste and I decided to take the chance and get started.”
Via Alibaba.com, they quickly sold the first shipment of coconut blossom sugar. “My first customer was a chocolate producer in Norway, who asked me if the sugar was also organic. I am very grateful to them, without the confidence of this company I would never have come this far.” At the beginning of 2014, Rhumveld Winter & Konijn started an agreement with Holos Ingra and took care of the distribution within Europe.
Coconut blossom sugar comes from the flowers that grow on the coconut trees. “Timing is essential in the process: the blossom should not be opened and cut before the nuts begin to grow on the tree. The flower should be incised at exactly the right time.” Bamboo buckets are hung under the open-cut blossom, in which the juice leaks. “Families work together in this process. Usually men collect the juice from the trees and women then boil the juice for six hours.” She admits to have looked into the possibilities of modernizing this process. “But that is impossible and we do not want to. It is a tradition that we should not disrupt.”
Dominiq indicates that the yield varies per season. “This depends, of course, on the circumstances: for 1 kilogram of coconut blossom we need 6 liters of juice.” Coconut blossom sugar from Indonesia, according to Dominiq, tastes very different than coconut blossom sugar from, for example, the Philippines: “It really has an exceptional taste, I suspect this is because the coconut trees in Indonesia grow mainly in higher areas.”
Twice a day our farmers harvest the nectar sap of the coconut flower blossom, which we call nira. The nira is boiled down until it thickens and changes colour from translucent to golden brown, then it is granulated by hand. The granules dilute and melt easily but they do not have a tendency to burn, reducing the chance of dreaded caramel failure, so common with sugar cane. Our coconut sugar has been pre-selected from the moment it was harvested through quality assessment of the liquid sap. It is then delicately cooked using a process that requires skill and attention in order to preserve the quality sap from overcooking or other mishandling.
The finished product imparts a toffee-like aroma and tastes like perfectly undercooked caramel, and comes in a soft granular form that provides the most convenience in food applications.
Coconut sugar/caramel also has other advantages: it keeps your blood sugar low and has sweet caramel notes. After cooking, the sugar is dried twice, first in the Javanese sun, then in an oven.
Sometimes we hear from people that production process of coconut blossom sugar is confused with production processes of palm oil. That is not the case at all. There are no trees cut down and it is a continuous and sustainable process. The palm trees continue to produce juice.
“Coconut blossom sugar can be processed in many ways, so I am convinced that this ingredient is not just a hype. Many people use it to sweeten their granola or use it in their bakery products. Also more and more chocolate producers use it to replace regular sugar.”