Vita Coco, Merci Buco, Nyogi, or Tropicana: Our Boxed Coconut Water Taste TestApril 8, 2018
Coconut water—the “water” or “juice” of young coconut that’s said to be a natural source of electrolytes and other minerals—has taken the (Western) health industry by storm the past few years. But it’s long been a staple drink in the country, loved for its clean taste (best described as subtly nutty and naturally sweet) and refreshing feel. Fresh coconut water (a.k.a. “buko juice”) is easily accessible in these parts, with peddlers of the straight-up, unadulterated stuff and prepared coconut water beverages (the pure juice that’s sweetened, spiked with strips of young coconut, diluted with ice, and served in cups) frequenting the streets during the day. It was only a matter of time before manufacturers would capitalize on this tradition, helping promote one of the Philippines’ local bounties to the world (and conveniently quenching thirsts anytime and anywhere). But how do these brands differ?
Vita Coco (Original)
Vita Coco has the refreshing feel of fresh buko juice, albeit with an added fruity hint in the backdrop that we can best liken to that of pineapple (and yes, we’re sure we tried the original and not the pineapple variant.) It exhibits some sweetness a touch above the real stuff, but not so much that it’s overbearing, and it still feels very clean overall.
Nyogi Pure Coconut Water
Comprised of only one ingredient (“pure coconut water”), Nyogi resembles what one of our tasters calls “watered-down day-old buko juice”. Barely sweet, it’s even slightly sour and even savory—which boosts its natural-tasting feel, but comes at the expense of overall deliciousness. You get a surprising touch of what we’d best describe as an odd creaminess toward the end, but it’s not enough to take away from the initial sourness.
Tropicana Coco Quench
With Tropicana’s version, a sensation that’s subtly smoky but also milky (in the odd but somewhat pleasurable sense, as with Nyogi’s) predominates. It doesn’t remind us much of the young coconut as much as it does coconut milk from fruit’s full-grown, mature counterpart. Tropicana’s also the sweetest of the bunch—though as a taster puts it, it’s still less sweet than most of the prepared, sweetened buko juice beverages you’d find on the streets.
Locally Merci Buco, Original Flavor
This ingeniously-named newcomer feels like a cross between Vita Coco and Tropicana with its hint of fruitiness and pandan-like milkiness—but it generally tastes, in a word, clean. Like Nyogi, Merci Buco is comprised of just one ingredient (organic coconut water), but it has a touch of sweetness that still feels well within the natural range of its real counterpart.
The Verdict: Locally Merci Buco
Overall, no one brand fully resembles fresh coconut water—we generally found them to feel more watery and thin (fresh coconut water, though water, bears a bit more body and a “round” feel on the tongue) and not quite the same in flavor. That aside, the slightly-fruity, slightly-nutty taste and barely-there sweetness makes Locally’s version the winner in our book. Coming very close is Nyogi, which truthfully tastes less pleasant but still comes relatively close to real (albeit less-fresh) buko juice. Vita Coco’s, though tainted with the said pineapple-y flavor, is nevertheless a refreshing drink to have around; and Tropicana, though sweet, has a surprising smokiness we appreciate. Nothing beats cracking into a fresh young coconut, but these boxes make for fine substitutes on days neighborhood vendors just aren’t around.