Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Review: Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil

Recently I wrote a post about the Autism Diet on a REAL Budget and in it I mentioned my frequent use of coconut oil. Not only do I use the oil, but I make my own coconut milk, and flour. I use coconut oil on my skin and coconut oil based skin and hair care products too. Over the last couple of years I have been researching diet and found that coconut is a wondrous super-food. Numerous sources even refer to the Coconut Tree as the "Tree of Life"! As the CoconutResearchCenter.org put it ...


"The coconut provides a nutritious source of meat, juice, milk, and oil that has fed and nourished populations around the world for generations."







I have been familiar with Tropical Traditions website for a few years now, in fact they are one of my "go to" sites for coconut recipes and research information. They always seem to have the answers I need when it comes to coconut. While writing my recent post on the Autism Diet I came across information on their site for receiving a free jar of coconut oil for review. I have wanted to try their brand for a long time. They do present their company and their product in a way that makes them seem like the very best. Reflecting on that this morning as I write I ask myself, why is it that even though I have never tried their product I already have a belief that theirs' is "the best". In fact I can recall telling people that before. I suppose it is in part because they call it "Gold Label" and they frankly tell you in all their marketing that it is the best. But more importantly I think it is the wealth of information available on their site. It seems to be a never-ending plethora of facts and recipes and videos. So with this belief then, why have I never tried their products before? Quite frankly? The price! Tropical Traditions is one of the priciest available on the market today. As I understand it the Tropical Traditions oil is made by hand the old fashioned way.  According to their website, 



"Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil is certified organic according to strict USDA requirements. It is hand-made in the Philippines the traditional way."


This video actually shows how the coconut oil is made by hand by real farmers, its pretty cool!




So with all this in mind I am excited to see if the product lives up to the hype, as I write this portion of the review I have not yet opened the jar! I wanted to get these thoughts down first. So please excuse me while I go now and experience the product and then I will return and fill you all in....





Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil Review


First Impressions:

I am impressed by the packaging first of all. I do purchase a lot of my groceries online from various retailers. Many products we would likely prefer to be in glass are now shipped in plastic containers, likely because of the issues of weight and fragility.  



My 32 ounce jar is glass and shipped in a specially designed heavy cardboard box with inserts to hold the jar inert in the middle of the box.












I do like the nice glass jar, which will recycle better then the plastic jar from Vita Cost. I have recycled them but since they are often sitting next to the stove while cooking sometimes they get a bit warped from the heat. Then I do worry about that plastic leaching into my food -yuck! But I do prefer that nice wide mouth on the 54 oz plastic jar. Coconut oil is hard at just below room temperature so its difficult to get it out of a narrow topped jar without melting it first, which is a pain. I imagine if I bought it in a gallon bucket I would really like that, probably using an ice cream scoop would be helpful.


Incidentally I should mention how impressed I am that the company would send a 32 ounce jar as a free sample! When I wrote to the company requesting a sample for review I really only expected 8 ounces, at most 16!  So generosity is dully noted.

Also I did notice that the plastic sealer band around the lid of the jar has a convenient pull tab design. I didn't have to grab a knife to cut it off. Since I have arthritis, I do notice other products with these shrink bands around the lids are usually difficult for me to remove and I have actually broken nails and nicked my finger in the past trying to get these things off. Another plus.


As I open the jar the aroma of the fresh coconut oil is pleasant and makes me feel good. Like the way you feel when you go to the beach and smell the sunscreen! I grabbed a spoon and took a taste:  


At first I was surprised because it does taste different then I expected. Brighter and sort of fruitier. I grabbed the jar of Vita Cost coconut oil from the cabinet to compare. Sure enough when I tasted the other I detected a distinct oily waxiness that I just don't taste in the Tropical Traditions, and no bright fruitiness. My daughter, Maxine says the color is even different. She says to her the Vita Cost looks "unnaturally white". Looking closely I will agree that the Tropical Traditions is more creamy in appearance.  












Next up: Cooking test... 

I chose to fry an egg because I don't really like eggs much. Ha Ha- I do eat them but I usually have to cover them with salsa to enjoy them and then I really don't enjoy the eggs so much as having a nice medium for my awesome homemade salsa. I do prefer the fresh farm raised grass fed eggs we get from the local CJ Farms here in Malvern, Arkansas over any other, especially super-market eggs and that is what I used. I also thought that of the many things you might fry in oil an egg is the most likely to be effected by the flavor of the oil; whether ruined or enhanced. I should mention that Bear loves eggs, so this will be a balanced report :) 


So I fried up one grass fed egg, in a freshly washed stainless steel skillet with about 2 teaspoons of the Tropical Traditions oil. First thing I noticed was the pleasant coconut aroma, that bright fruitiness carried over while cooking. It cooked nicely and got a lovely little brown crisp edge. Bear and I prefer our yolks cooked hard, not runny so that's how we cooked this one today.  






















Taste Test

I was pleasantly surprised. My first bite had me reaching for another! Bear proclaimed that this was the "best fried egg he ever tasted!"

I did not notice an overpowering coconut flavor in the egg, which I kinda expected due to the aroma while cooking. The flavor of the egg seemed nicely enhanced and maybe a little brighter. Definitely yummy even without salsa!







Cost


The Tropical Traditions brand is more expensive. I paid $21.49 for a 54 oz plastic jar of the Vita Cost brand. The 32 oz jar of Tropical Traditions Gold Label on the Healthy Buyers Club site says the retail price is $40, but today it is on sale for $29.50, while the gallon is on sale today for $65. They do carry a "Green Label" which is probably closer in quality to the Vita Cost brand and an "Expeller pressed" version which is probably closer to the same price level as the Vita Cost brand.   

Swanson Brand (54 oz size) = 37 cents per ounce

Vita Cost Brand (54 oz size) = 39.7 cents per ounce

Nutiva Brand (54 oz size) = 49.05 cents per ounce

Tropical Traditions "Gold Label" (1 gallon pail on sale!) = 54.1 cents per ounce

Tropical Traditions "Green Label" (1 gallon pail on sale!) = 57.9 cents per ounce

Tropical Traditions "Green Label" (32 oz jar on sale!) = 85.9 cents per ounce

Tropical Traditions "Gold Label" (32 oz jar on sale!) = 92 cents per ounce 


The Bottom Line...

I give the Tropical Traditions 4 out of 5 Stars, because while it does have the best flavor, and I love the process the price is too high for the likes of me. 

Now listen, I am a bargain hunter by my very nature. I also have come to understand that sacrificing your health on inferior food is no bargain. And if I ever win the lottery or become otherwise financially independent I will make the switch to Tropical Traditions Gold Label. You bet I will! It tastes better, its fresher, and its sustain ably grown and manufactured while keeping hard working farmers working on really good food- everything that I support- ideally; but I'm poor! It really stinks that good health and good food are reserved for the wealthy but there it is. That's the world in which we live. So for now what I have to say to Tropical Traditions Gold Label Coconut Oil is...


"Love ya, baby; don't ever change!"  But this Blogger will be sticking to a cheaper brand coconut oil - for now.

I have to mention here that in the past I used Swanson Vitamins brand coconut oil until I needed to buy more than only 16 ounces a month. At 7.99 per 16 oz it's slightly more expensive then the Vita Cost brand, per ounce. I opted for the convenience of the larger size and wider mouth jar as Swanson did not carry a larger size and so I switched to the Vita Cost brand for that reason. I have serious issues with Vita Cost customer service and will never purchase from them again, even if the price is better. I am happy to say that Swanson now carries a 54 oz jar at only 19.99 - that comes to just 37 cents per ounce. I plan to purchase this jar on the 1st of March, 2013- and I'll add an update comparing the flavor to Tropical Traditions at that time so stay tuned!

UPDATE March 21, 2013
I waited for some time to make this update because I was trying to get some information form both Vita Cost and Swanson Vitamins about from where they source their coconut oil. Unfortunately, after e-mailing and calling both companies I could not get the information. Vita-Cost wouldn't even answer my request AT ALL which really didn't surprise me) that's why I won't use them anymore- poor customet itr service. The representatives at Swanson Vitamins were friendly and apologetic at least and told me they didn't have access to the information. Frankly, I don't think I believe that- but be that as it may - at least they were polite about it! So after comparing the Swanson's Vitamins version to the Vita-Cost version; in my humble opinion there was no difference in taste or quality from one to the other. The jar is the same size and shape but Swanson's jar is dark brown. I don't know if light degradation is an issue with Coconut oil, but if it is then glad they are on top of that! lol Still, if you can afford it, I do recommend  the Tropical traditions brand, it is hands down BETTER. I will have to stick to Swanson's Vitamins brand for now. :)

-Peace

Bonus BearShirt Kitchen Recipes!

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