coconut cartel

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Coconut Cartel popped up on my Instagram feed a week or so ago and I was quick to try and hunt them down. Turns out, it wasn't very hard to get in touch with this brand new Miami-based company and I was in for more than I bargained for - in the best way possible. Two friends, Michael Zig and Christian Quinonez Sol, and Mike's sister, Danielle Zighelboim, are on the cusp of what I know will be the next big thing.

I mean, we're talking about a bunch of youngsters, part of that new brigade of Millennial Miami entrepreneurs, who are growing Malayan Dwarf Coconuts on a 100+ year old farm on an island in El Salvador in the middle of the night because the coconuts can't be in the sunlight once they've been picked (or something like that, I'm murky on the details, but I know that the whole harvesting process takes place before the sun comes up).

These guys have patented branded coconuts. They're mixing them with rum (which, because of it's hydrating properties, has no hangover!)! They count Drake as one of their early adapters! And in only two months they've managed to do the impossible an get their product into Miami's nicest spots (Soho House, Standard, OTC, JugoFresh and more). Why? How? Well, it's good. It's really effing good. Read on for my thoughts about coconut water, but know that I tasted this myself and I was full-on converted. Now, onto the second taste test - with a little rum... 

Coconut water has been all the rage for a while now, but I've never been able to get behind it. I'm eager to jump on board with just about any health food trend, I drink fermented tea for crying out loud, but I just don't like the taste of coconut water in a cardboard box. I've always loved fresh coconut water though, straight from the source. Is Coconut Cartel the best of both worlds?

MIKE: I'll be bluntly honest, I was never a fan of the tetrapak coconut waters. When I first tried our coconuts I flipped out, not only was it delicious! It was packaged by nature! We are definitely the freshest coconut water on the market. We're not really into a product being able to sit on a shelf for a year "naturally." We cut Monday, brand Tuesday, Ship Wednesday, and Serve Thursday all while maintaining a nice cold chain.

About this whole "smuggling" thing. Is it brand-talk or are you guys really secretly getting them out of the country? I'm always wishing that I could bring more food back when I'm abroad, is it kind of like that? Should I be worried that I'll get busted if I walk down the street drinking one?

MIKE: Crazily enough we began smuggling them in (and continue to do so for special deliveries). Our first sample batch we literally brought in our luggage. Imagine going through customs with 200 coconuts? We're on first name basis with many Customs officers ;) We've upgraded to using a produce logistics company that brings them in super fresh.

I love that the coconuts come from a family-run farm in El Salvador and you guys are a brother sister team. It gives everything a real family vibe. What's it like working all the time with your sibling?

MIKE: Family is key; I can't imagine not working with my sister. My partner in El Salvador is basically my brother. His family took me in when we moved to El Salvador in 2002, we are actually so close that when my family left El Salvador his family moved into my Apartment and I still have my room there. As for the farm, my partner's family has owned this farm for over 100 years. His great Grandfather was a visionary, and it is a great honor to be able to sell a product he cared so much about.

Tell me about Malayan Dwarf Coconuts. Are they the best coconuts? Are they just cute because they're small?

MIKE: These coconuts are the bees knees. We offer a completely different taste to those of Thailand and Brazil. Malayan Dwarfs are sweeter than most other coconuts (and almost impossible to find another plantation of them). They're so good, they have turned Coconut Water Haters into Lovers.

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Can you tell me about what it's like on the farm where the coconuts come from?

MIKE: It is absolutely stunning to see such a magnificent piece of work and even more stunning to know how it came to be. My partner's great grandfather saw the future, literally. This island was plotted meticulously 110 years ago. How someone with such limited technology did so much its incredible. Miles and miles of coconut trees ranging from 10 ft tall to over 100 ft tall. The main house is kept as it was 110 years ago, very regal yet rustic.

What's the process of picking coconuts?

MIKE: We picked up where my partner's Great Grandfather left off. We actually use rolling towers pulled by oxen. There is a picture of it on our Instagram @CoconutCartel that really embodies the process. We never stun trees by knocking off their whole crop, we prefer to only take down coconuts that are ready.

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PHOTO VIA @COCONUTCARTEL (follow them on Instagram)

A lot of people in Miami are familiar with coconut water fresh from the coconut, but it's kind of a pain to open the whole thing up. I can admit that I've taken a machete to a coconut more than once... How do you drink yours?

MIKE: I too thought opening coconut was not only a pain, but it was dangerous. I'm clumsy so me opening a coconut with a machete could be a disaster. When my partner first gave me a coconut and I saw him open it with his house key I knew this was it. It's crazy how easy it is to open our coconuts.

What's the very best way and place to enjoy a coconut from Coconut Cartel? Poolside? Post run? At a party? At an after-party? The morning after partying?

MIKE: All of the above.

Ok, time for an important question. Can you mix it with alcohol?

MIKE: Yes of course! That's one of the amazing perks! You can pour the alcohol into the actual coconut. We call it a "Coco Loco" because it's a coconut that'll get you crazy drunk. You can barely taste the alcohol.

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A bit more about you guys. What neighborhood in Miami do you call home? Are there any neighborhood gems that you can share with us? Places to eat, shop, drink, walk, people-watch...

MIKE: We're Beach kids, Both of us were born in Mount Sinai. We rep the 33140 pretty hard. I am a total creature of habit (and so is my sister): We LOVE JugoFresh, Matt is one of our inspirations in the beverage world. Carrot Express for the best Chicken Salad wrap with a veggie burger stuffed inside (trust me). Katana when we get there on time. Broken Shaker and Soho are here so you'll definitely see us sipping on drinks there regularly. People watching.... I'm going to have to go with Walgreens on 41st if you want to get a good laugh.

Enough talk, I'm sure everyone is dying to know by now, where can you get one!?

MIKE: As of right now we are at MyCeviche, OTC, Soho Beach House, The Standard Spa, TenFruits, Carrot Express and our Event Service which has been a mega hit with companies such as MTV. Stay Tuned for more to come real soon.....

b2ap3_thumbnail_02063f2c2d3911e3895f22000a9e4895_8.jpgPHOTO VIA @COCONUTCARTEL (follow them on Instagram)