As we continue our mini-series detailing the production process of the various types of coconuts we supply, this post will talk about the steps to producing desiccated coconut products.
Desiccated coconut refers to a number of different coconut products, but the common thread is that the coconut meat that has been shredded or flaked and then oven dried to remove moisture. In the global marketplace, desiccated coconut goes by several names, coconut flakes, shreds, threads, or chips. These all fall under the umbrella term “desiccated coconut”, but as we will see these all have slightly different cut sizes and applications.
Unlike coconut sugar, desiccated coconut products are made from the meat of the coconut nut. Therefore, the coconut tree must produce nuts, not sap. In Sri Lanka, farmers oversee plantations of coconut trees, ranging from a few hectares to several hundred hectares. Everyday, these farmers collect ripe coconuts by using a scythe tool to cut down the coconuts from the top of these 40-60ft tall trees.
These farmers supply coconuts to aggregators, who collect and transport the coconuts to a central processing unit. At these locations, large piles of coconuts are given a preliminary check before they make it through the actual production process. Quality control workers will give the coconuts a first look through. Any coconuts that are missized, cracked, off-color will be immediately discarded from the pile.
Next, the coconuts are divided up amongst the workers, who, with cleavers, will remove the layer of husk from the coconut, shave off the extra skin, and crack open the coconut, drain the water, and cut down the coconut until only the fleshy white meat is left. These coconuts are fed into a conveyer belt where they are washed, and fed into a cutting machine where they are cut into the appropriate size for each of the products.
Note that some coconut producers may add an additional step called “blanching”, where the coconut meat is run through a mixture of water and potassium bisulfate in order to preserve the milky white color of the coconut meat without worrying about discoloring later in the shelf life. This process, should be carefully monitored because while it preserves the color of the coconut meat, it invalidates the organic status of the desiccated coconut.
After cutting, the shredded coconut meat is oven dried to reduce moisture content from ~20% to less than 5%. The dried coconut shreds pass a series of metal detection tests to ensure that no foreign contaminants are present within the product line. Several visual tests are performed as well, to make sure that none of the brown coconut skins present either.
As always, the farmers who supply to The Coconut Cooperative go through a series of rigorous quality control standards. Like our coconut sugar, our desiccated coconut products are USDA Organic, Kosher, BRC, and Fair Trade Certified.