Best friends Shelly Lin and Carmen Seetho met in the U.S. after immigrating from Indonesia and Singapore, respectively. Lin and Seetho, along with their families, had always wanted to open a food and drink business that could share their cultural foods and drinks. After many trips to Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, and other countries for research, the duo was inspired to bring the Asian coconut trend to the States.
Although boba drinks are incredibly popular in America, especially in Asian American communities, the actual boba balls are not nearly as popular in Asia. With humid weather and a more health-conscious customer base, coconut water and shakes have long been preferred desserts in many Asian countries. In recent years, a slew of contemporary coconut drink brands and chains in Singapore have come into prominence, offering a variety of modern twists on coconut-based drinks, including shakes, juices, and even coconut-infused coffee, effectively surpassing the prevailing trend of boba tea.
Coconut & Co, which opened in mid-October, is devoted to everything coconut. “We source our young coconut meat from Thailand, [which is] renowned for its softer texture, resulting in coconut water that is fresher, free from any lingering aftertaste, and boasts a delightful fragrance. We take pride in the fact that we do not dilute any of our coconut water,” shares Lin.
In their quest for the finest coconuts, the duo explored sourcing options worldwide, venturing to such countries as Indonesia, Brazil, and Mexico. After careful consideration, it was the young Thai green coconuts that won as the best choice for their creations.
The shop’s signature coconut shake features a blend of coconut water from Thailand, creamy coconut milk, ice, and hand-cut young coconut slivers. The coconut avocado shake is made with fresh avocado, coconut milk, and roasted, creamy coconut sugar. There are also more modern additions like the coconut Oreo shake, made with crushed Oreos and coconut milk. The already popular Tornado is a mix of coconut milk and brown sugar with churpy (tapioca noodles).
“We wanted to create a health-conscious twist on beloved boba drinks. A consistent concern we’ve encountered is the excessive sugar content found in these beverages. Our [older] customers favor beverages with a milder sweetness and are especially cautious about the sugar and caffeine intake for their children. Every item on our menu boasts natural sweetness, completely avoiding the use of refined sugar,” Seetho says. Her commitment to healthier food options is deeply rooted in the personal journey of raising her autistic son.
All drinks and desserts that feature sugar levels are sweetened with natural coconut sugar, tea, fruit, or coconut water. It’s not just the beverages that are creating a buzz within the SGV community. Their kaya butter toast has been drawing customers from near and far.
“The greatest accolade we’ve received is the overwhelming approval from the customers from Singapore and other Asian countries who have visited us. They’ve shared their love and approval and it’s immensely gratifying,” says Lin.
Seetho’s mom wakes up early to help prep and assist Lin in the kitchen with the kaya jam, which is made every morning in small batches. The kaya jam, which is made without any preservatives, takes over two hours of laborious work.
“We’re really eager to offer our kaya jam to a wider audience, but currently, we can only produce enough for our dine-in customers. Crafting the kaya jam involves a meticulous process using fresh pandan leaves, rich coconut cream, eggs, and Gula Melaka coconut sugar, which we import from Indonesia,” explains Lin. “The key is to maintain a watchful eye and stir it over a low flame. While some opt to use cornstarch to thicken it, we refrain from that. The eggs play a pivotal role because if the temperature rises too quickly, they could curdle.”
In addition to making fresh kaya, the taro, yam rice balls, and pandan chiffon cake are also made daily. Other specialty items include Malaysian tea, purple sticky rice dessert, and dairy-free coconut pudding mixed with fruit. You can also find qing bu liang, a vegan Cantonese dessert made to order with fresh fruits, mung beans, red beans, and coconut with the option of coconut milk and brown sugar syrup. Lin and Seetho are also currently testing a Vietnamese coconut shake that should debut soon.
“We want to cater to our lactose-intolerant customers by offering a beverage that is gentle on their stomachs and celebrates the richness of coconut, straight from the source,” says Seetho.
Coconut & Co, located at 1045 Valley Boulevard Suite A102 in San Gabriel, CA 91776, is open 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.