The coconut palm has a fixed place in dreams of paradise: its greens fronds swaying in the sea breeze counterpoint the white of the sand, the sky, and turquoise sea.
As beautiful as the tree is, so important is what it produces. Even before the beginning of civilization its wood, fruit, the fibers of its husk, and of course the water in its shell were used.
Fishers’ nets, beds and matrasses, and sturdy houses were fashioned from the palm. Its wood and the shell of the coconut fed fires, and the fruit men.
In Lotao’s quest for heirloom rice varieties the coconut palm always seemed to be part of the landscape. So it was less a discovery than delight in running across an old friend, and getting to know him better.
There were revelations nonetheless: coconut blossom sugar and kaya.
Coconut blossom sugar is rare even in Asia. It is produced from the blossom’s nectar in a time-consuming process; the nectar is heated in large pans until it thickens and caramelizes. From this is derived what is probably the world’s most precious source of sweetness. The coconut’s gold does not pack the rough punch of refined sugar, but has a tangy, delicate flavor. Teas are refined by coconut blossom sugar, baked goods acquire a rich aroma, and vegetables, chilies, and meat are given a surprising twist.
Lotao has wed the coconut blossom with alluring aromas: In addition to pure coconut blossom sugar, Lotao tempts gourmets with lemon-ginger and mace-cardamom Java Kiss.
One of Lotao’s discoveries is kaya, the coconut cream of the gods. Every child in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines knows it. Made of eggs, coconut milk and sugar it resembles a crème brûlée that is not caramelized, but further refined with the leaves of the pandanus tree. Lotao decided in favor of a vegan variation that joins the finest cacao and the best of the coconut to create a rich chocolate spread—Kaya Chocolate Cream. It is a healthy snack. A spoonful will satisfy and still the longing for something sweet—very different from industrially produced hazelnut-chocolate spreads.
Another variation is Kaya Coconut Jam. It is similar to the traditional product. The ingredients however are strictly vegan. Coconut Jam enhances any curry or vegetable with chili. It is also makes a delicious relish to accompany steaks.
Both creams can be spread on bread and are the sophisticated alternative to flavor monotony. Their high heat-resistance means the spreads are wonderful for cooking and baking.
A pure, natural food has qualities that the critical consumer does not find in conventional products. A glistening coat forms on kaya creams; this is pure, cold-pressed coconut oil. It can be removed or stirred back into the cream. In the refrigerator the oil takes on a white color. This is natural and a sign of quality.
There are 34 known varieties of the coconut palm. They are tropical and subtropical plants and require sufficient sunlight, warmth and water to thrive. The coconut palm is particularly widespread in Indonesia and the Philippines. The tree’s bough can grow to a height of 30 meters. The coconut palm yields its first fruit after about 12 years. In the following forty years a tree will produce about 80 fruits annually. A coconut palm can live for 120 years, but in old age is unsuitable as a source of fruit owing to its height.
The unripe fruit of the coconut palm contains as much as a liter of wholesome and intensely aromatic water. When ripe the fruit may weigh up to 2.5 kilograms. Puree is prepared from the coconut’s flesh and milk. Copra is produced from the dried meat of the coconut, and valuable oil pressed from the copra.
“He who owns a coconut palm has everything needed to live”.