Coconut palm is also known as a tree of life in Indonesia and Philippines. Everywhere it grows it represents an inexhaustible source of different materials, used in everyday life of the natives. Its log is used for building houses and making furniture, while the shell and husk of the coconuts serve as stove fire to replace woods. Women tie a handful of coconut leaf bones and use them as a rake to gather falling leaves and garbage on the floor. They also use the leaves to make special ornaments for marriage ceremonies and culinary specialty, called »ketupat«. Even more often, coconut water, coconut meat and coconut oil are used in cuisine, while coconut flowers are used to make natural sweeteners, such as coconut sugar.
Before refined white sugar became globally used, coconut sugar was the most commonly used sweetener in Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries. It is made from coconut sap that is carefully collected in a special process, called »tapping«.
Coconut sugar is a healthy natural sweetener, as it has a very low glycemic index (GI) compared to other sugars. Therefore, it is suitable for diabetics and people who are overweight as well. The glycemic index of coconut sugar, based on different test results from the USA, Philippines, Japan and Australia, is in the range of 35 to 54 per serving. To compare: glycemic index of the same amount of other sugars, such as refined white sugar, muscovado sugar and molasses have a range of 65 to 100. Date sugar has a 100 GI, maple syrup has 69 or more, and honey has a 70 or more.
Besides low glycemic index, coconut sugar is also known for containing many minerals. It is a rich source of potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. It contains twice the amount of iron, four times as much as magnesium and over ten times more zinc than brown sugar! It is also a source of vitamins, especially vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6.
Native people of Indonesia use many different forms of coconut sweetener, from syrup and coconut paste to solid form and coconut sugar in granulated form. They mix coconut syrup with coconut milk to make a traditional beverage or use the syrup as bread spread. Many chocolate factories are now using coconut sugar to sweeten their chocolate candies. For everyday use, people mix the solid form of coconut syrup with water to make liquid syrup, used for sweetening drinks and pastries.
However, the most popular and globally spread form of coconut sweetener is granulated coconut sugar. It is easy to use and easy to store since it has the lowest moisture content (1-3 %) and has a long shelf life. Coconut sugar has a sweet caramel-like taste and does not have a coconut-like flavor. It can be used everywhere we would use regular sugar – to sweeten up tea, coffee and other drinks, in different baked or raw desserts, for sweetening sweet spreads or fruit salads. It is especially delicious sprinkled over a bread spread or fruit slices.