This is Belize: Have you ever tried ‘hot mint coconut water’? My major fail.

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Island entrepreneur Jose fills his jugs with fresh coconut water. To bring them to market, the full jugs are attached to his handlebars by bits of netting he finds on the shore -- as many as 20 jugs dangle off his bicycle. And don't kid yourself -- this is hard work.
Island entrepreneur Jose fills his jugs with fresh coconut water. To bring them to market, the full jugs are attached to his handlebars by bits of netting he finds on the shore — as many as 20 jugs dangle off his bicycle. And don’t kid yourself — this is hard work.

Jose has been delivering fresh coconut water to my door for more than two years now.

Irregularly, of course.

He’ll come as often as three times a week, sometimes every other week.

Regardless, he is always out there in his uncharacteristically funky sunglasses, good weather and bad, harvesting fresh coconuts, from sunrise to well after dark. Jose is a true Belize entrepreneur. He likes being his own boss and he is rewarded for how hard he works and how well he sells. If he can fill and sell 15 gallons a day, that’s $150 BZD. Good money.

He can easily fill 15 gallons, if he has enough empties on hand. He once showed me how quickly, slicing about six coconuts with his machete and draining them into a container in under four minutes. Of course, you have to factor the time involved scaling the palm trees barefoot, chopping down the coconuts and then gathering them up into a wheelbarrow. He has numerous wheelbarrows, here up north of the bridge, that he can tacitly borrow from businesses, homes, resorts.

I’ve come to recognize Jose’s “offices” as well — small mangrove or bush enclosures piled high with empty coconut shells all showing Jose’s signature cut. He dumps scores of fresh coconuts there … and from somewhere the empty containers materialize. I’ve never pursued that part of the supply chain too closely. I know I wash mine out very thoroughly before turning them back over to Jose. I sure hope others do the same.

Jose uses what is available — gallon water containers and imperial gallons but is all the same to him, $10.

He handles his own marketing, too. The water is always “fresh.” (And this I believe.) And if you are hesitant, he will sometimes point out that his coconut water is “sweet. The sweetest on the island.” (And sometimes it really does taste sweet. Maybe the water from young coconuts? Good marketing psychology?)

Recently I thought he was expanding his enterprise.

When he brought me a gallon of coconut water, Jose asked in his sometimes thick Guatemalan (I believe) accent if I would like some “mint coconut.”

“Mint? How do you make mint coconut?,” I asked, intrigued. “Do you have some mint plants stashed away in the bush up north?”

“Yas, yas,” he exclaimed. “Lots of mint.”

“OK. How much is it?”

“Much as you want. Five dollars. Ten dollars. Fifteen.”

“OK, I’m interested.”

“Good, good. You want hot mint or soft mint?”

“Hot mint? Like a spicy mint coconut?” This was growing more intriguing by the moment.

“Can I try one of each?” I ventured cautiously.

“Yah, yah! How much each?”

We settled on a $5 portion of each. If it was as interesting as it sounded I could always buy up next time.

Shortly, Jose returned holding up two small black plastic bags. Whatever was inside, it wasn’t flavored coconut water.

In a rather confused state, I handed Jose the $10 and he handed me the bags, weighing a bit over a pound each, I’d guess.

“Fresh mint.” He pointed to one: “Hot mint” and to the other: “Soft mint.”

Then he shook my hand, spun off and headed for his next sale.

In the kitchen I came to a stunning conclusion: Never in my life have I failed so badly at communication with another human.

It was meat. Coconut meat. The creamy white stuff inside the shell

The “hot mint” was a bag of hard coconut meat, the kind you shred and toast or eat as is.

The “soft mint” was a bag of young, rubbery white coconut meat, the kind of coconut meat you press to make coconut milk.

Ah, well. The hard coconut meat was delicious. I ate it like candy. The soft meat spoiled as it sat there in the fridge. I just didn’t know what to do with it.

But mint coconut? The idea kind of intrigues me still.

Maybe I’ll pick up some fresh mint, real mint, at Greenhouse Grocers and try a little infusion on my own.

Who knows, Jose, you may have been on to something.

This is Belize.

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Editor’s note: “This is Belize” is an occasional series within the “Bound for Belize” blog. It highlights the sometimes goofy, quirky, strange, frustrating, bewildering, heartwarming or sweet things that happen to us and which put a light on the Belizean outlook and spirit.
The title comes from a 20-year resident of Belize and long-time friend, Steve Thompson. When things happen here that are beyond Steve’s control or comprehension, he simply sighs and utters, mantra like, “This is Belize.” And he finds acceptance within, while warding off cynicism.
If you have experiences/stories that might leave you whispering “This is Belize,” send them to me so we can share! My e-mail is

6 thoughts on “This is Belize: Have you ever tried ‘hot mint coconut water’? My major fail.

    Wilma said:
    July 9, 2016 at 9:31 am

    Another adventure in Belize food! Try putting the soft meat (diced into small pieces) in with oranges or other fruit in a fruit salad. I love it. It does go bad quickly, so you should eat within a day or two. You can also chop it up and add it to fudge or add it to cake batter before you cook it. Mint would go well with any of those! 😉


      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      July 9, 2016 at 9:34 am

      Great ideas, Wilma. Coconut seems to go well in or with everything! I like the idea of adding it to cake batter!


    mike said:
    July 9, 2016 at 10:14 am

    Jose has been a trusted supplier for us as well, Bob. I’ve had a few communication gaffs with him, but he is a good spirit and hard worker. (We always wash our jugs out carefully before returning to him, BTW!) He’s now caught on to asking our guests if they’d like some coconut watta also, so he’s improving his marketing reach! Never tried the coco-mint, but I appreciate the lookout!


    elizabethjewell5 said:
    July 11, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    This begins my education on culinary San Pedro. Must learn how to cook well and like a native, without relying on canned or prepared. Thank you, a delight to read


      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      July 12, 2016 at 10:42 am

      Thanks, Liz. It is a very different world for sure. No one place has all the food you want, so a shopping trip often means four or five stops. But they are almost all social! You run into people, chat, exchange information on the freshest fruits and vegetables. Over and over. And you shop more often as food doesn’t keep long in the tropics. Also, when you see something you think you might like — buy it. It will be gone when you return and might never come around again. Some of the produce shops will introduce you to strange new foods and suggest ways to prepare it. Also, the boats arrive with fresh fruit and produce on Tuesdays and Saturdays, so you learn WHEN to shop, too.


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