Shelling out for agua de coco

I love fresh agua de coco and it’s relatively easy to find in many parts of Mexico. In Chicago, though, it’s less accessible (read: almost impossible to find).

So, I have a love-hate relationship with buying agua de coco in the store when I’m really craving it. On one hand, I’m grateful I can get it at all. But on the other hand, the dilemma for me is twofold: the mass-produced version lacks the same taste as the fresh kind—obviously—but also has a much, much higher price tag.

I’ve even gone so far as to throw away the receipt after buying it because I felt bad about how much I spent (…and maybe because I didn’t want the Mr. to know how much it actually cost).

But on several occasions, I’ve caved and bought a single serve juice box (like the one pictured here) to take with me to the office. Or if I see it on sale, I’ll sometimes buy two regular-sized tetra packs and treat myself.

I can’t help but wonder if I’m the only one who is subconsciously chastising myself for buying it, though. When we traveled through the Carribbean, South and Central America and Mexico on a family vacation in 2009 and we saw stands along the road offering fresh agua de coco all over the place—often for less than the equivalent of a single U.S. dollar—those images stuck in my head. I remember thinking, “if they only knew what we paid for this back home.” And those images stuck with me; they flash in my mind each time I pick up a tetra pack off the shelf at the grocery store and most of the time, I end up putting it back.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal from earlier this year, some industry estimates say U.S. retail sales for coconut water reached around $400 million in 2011. Furthermore, the industry has roughly doubled its revenue every year since 2005, largely due to endorsements and consumption by celebrities and athletes. Something about it seems exploitative to me.

Mexicans (and others throughout Latin America) have been drinking coconut water since long before it was deemed cool by the U.S., but it’s considered a luxury product here and comes with a luxury product price tag. When I have kids, I’m sure I’ll much prefer giving them natural juices and things like coconut water over sugary drinks, but I feel guilty about the cost. I know even if I make the personal choice not to buy it, that many others still will.

  • Do you struggle with this too, or am I crazy?



  1. says

    Well, if it makes you feel any better, I have the same problem here in Mexico with all the American things I want to buy/crave. Por ejemplo, a box of cheezeits is 94 pesos, 4 poptarts is 62 pesos, philsbury cresent rolls 174 pesos, a 6 pack of bud select 224 pesos(no manches!), hersheys chocolate chips 112 pesos..I could go on!! There is one store right by house that is all imported gringo foods… Lean Cuisines, Hot Pockets, cleaning name it- it’s there. I can’t go in there because the prices are just tooooo outrageous!

  2. simona says

    I totally get you. I just bought the same drink and was trying to convince myself that it tasted great ( had to do that so I would not ferrell guilty about the price). I was embarrassed at myself for spending that much money. I will go to the mexican store and buy me a coconut next time. All I do is use the meat tenderizer and a small screwdriver to hit the little holes and fresh water. Maker sure to put in fridge first overnight. I also go on fullerton n sacramento and sometimes there is a PR man who sells them…a bit pricey but it is not going to a big exploitive company. I buy from him the green cocos, not the brown. Love them. I will remember you in a few days….I ann going to mexico and will definitely be eating and drinking a coco.

  3. Cartwright says

    I fell in love with green coconuts when I was in the Philippines. Check the larger asian markets and you should be able to find green coconuts. I’m picking them up in Memphis for about $2 a piece. The do NOT require a machete and several severed fingers to open. Just be careful and enjoy… toss ’em in the fridge overnight if you want them cold.

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