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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