I’m not a huge fan of coconut water to begin with, but if I were to start drinking it, I would strongly consider Taste Nirvana as my brand of choice because it feels like one of the few authentic brands selling a tropical fruit product to the West. It was founded by a Thai father and his American-born son, who created a coconut water company that is rooted in the Thai community in numerous ways; the family lives in Thailand to be close to their coconut source, the brand hosts celebrations for the children in their community, and they cater their sustainability measures to what makes the most sense for their environmental climate and needs. These brands are too often white- and foreign-owned, reeking of exploitative, neoliberal capitalism, but Taste Nirvana offers what seems to be a much more authentic, though not entirely perfect brand. For me, the tradeoff is that it isn’t 100% coconut water; there’s some added sugar and coconut essence (only 90% juice), and that’s something I’d be willing to trade to support a genuinely sustainable and community-oriented company. But, again - I’m not a huge fan of coconut water.
The only subpar part of this brand is the ingredients. It isn’t 100% coconut water - it’s only 90% juice, and it has added sugar and coconut essence. However, it isn’t made from concentrate, it doesn’t have preservatives, and it’s non-GMO certified. Their packaging is great - they use a 100% recyclable glass bottle, which is better than many competitors’ use of plastic bottles, but the tradeoff is that the bottles are heavier when transporting across oceans to their Western consumers.
Their water is bottled within hours after harvesting in small batches to preserve taste, using a standard microfiltration system to preserve freshness in place of preservatives. The best news of their processes, however, come from the factories themselves, which have a slew of sustainable practices. These include using leftover coconut shells for biofuel, treating wastewater by running it through aquatic plants and reducing toxicity when returned to the environment, and creating a Sustainable Wood-for-Fuel Program, for which they ‘fast-farm’ trees, replanted annually, which are used to supply the steam that comprises 100% of the energy source for their factory. These practices are not necessarily the best in the Western sense of sustainability - wood and coconut biomass are still being burned, for example - but it’s what makes sense for their environment. Sure, they could be using better renewable energy, but they’re making progress and green-ifying their chain where they can. Instead of continually cutting down the already-devastated Thai forests, they’ve created a fast-farming system to supply their plant with fuel, creating community-specific solutions that are accessible for them.
The brand was founded by a Thai father-son team who moved back to Thailand from America to create and stay close to their business; this is not the standard white, Western, exploitative team who cut down coconuts for their mass profit. Their mission is to bring good-tasting coconut water to consumers in the “most natural and eco-friendly way possible”, and they do so with a culturally fluent approach. Recognizing Thailand’s mass deforestation and farming issues, they have partnered with local temples for their employees to participate in annual reforestation efforts. Additionally, they are an active part of their community, holding an annual “Children’s Day”, which is an open house and party for the local community to tour the plant and celebrate with games; they’ve held the event for four years with plans to continue. It is this sort of meaningful community inclusion that infuses equity into their processes, and I love the intentionality behind it.