The Coconut Trail: Sri Lanka
Updated: May 20, 2021
Sourcing coconut from regenerative farms in Sri Lanka for Natual State raw cacao brownies and new exciting products to come...
My journey began at Serendipol; a Fairtrade and Organic certified coconut oil processor in what is known locally as the ‘Coconut Triangle’, just north of the capital of Sri Lanka, Colombo.
I was following a lead from Jero, known as 'Jero the Hero' to those in the know, due to the amazing work he has done in developing Dr Bronner’s transparent and regenerative supply chain.
At the processing hub I was met by Nishadi, an employee with the biggest smile, who chatted non-stop on our journey to visit some of the farms that produce coconuts for Serendipol. We visited 3 farms; each a lush, green, biodiverse haven of coconuts growing alongside mango and banana trees, peppercorn vines winding their way up the trunks. The trees shelter a carpet of grasses and wildflowers, with turmeric and ginger sending their fragrant roots down into the rich soil.
Back at the processing hub I appreciated how much hard work goes into processing the coconuts into coconut oil. The women employees there use machines to drill the tough coconut shell and remove the meat. The noise of the drills was immense, the vibrations on their hands and the danger posed makes this hard work. Work which should be appreciated each time we consume coconut oil.
I left Serendipol inspired by the small-scale, biodiverse farms they work with, intrigued by what other processing plants were like and curious to understand more about the landscape of coconut production in other areas.
A bit more research took me to Heritage Lanka; also based in the Negombo area. I met with Sampath and we drove out to the main plantation. Here there were no fruit trees or cover crops; just rows and rows of coconuts and neatly cut grass. Back at the factory I realised how good the conditions at Serendipol were. Not perfect but nothing ever is in our food system. Here the humidity was intense and it was much more enclosed with minimal natural light.
So it seemed like Serendipol would be a great organisation to source from. The only problem was that they only produced coconut oil and we also need desiccated coconut, coconut nectar and sugar.
With no more leads on coconut producers I carried on my journey south for a few days. By chance, a friend put me in touch with a contact who had lived in Sri Lanka for many years.
Off I went, back to Colombo to be picked up by Durka, a son of the family business which has been running for the past 40 years. They are passionate about supporting farmers who grow in harmony with nature; using indigenous practices alongside biodynamic and regenerative farming methods.
The first farm we visited belonged to Mr Neradi. There I felt the little bubble of joy I get in my heart when I know I have found
someone who cares even more than I do about how our food is grown. A devout buddhist, Mr Neradi lovingly tends his small farm producing coconuts, fruit and spices. He happily led me to his hut, chuckling that he prefers the smaller space and had given his son (who prefers the bigger space) the larger house.
So, I found my coconut partners in Sri Lanka: Mr Neradi and Serendipol. Next
month, we will make our very first shipment of coconut ingredients directly from these producers and it fills me with so much joy to know that each time we sell a brownie, we will be supporting an intricate ecosystem, lovingly tended by farmers like Mr Neradi.
This is food as it should be. Food in its Natural State.
Read about our sourcing trip to find regenerative cacao.