Virgin coconut oil is clear and has a smell of fresh coconut whilst the copra coconut oil is yellow with some impurities and has a more rancid smell. So what is the difference apart from the look and smell?
Stacey King (Nature Pacific, Australia) says:
“To make copra, islanders first gathers coconuts that have fallen on the ground, cut the nut in half and remove the white coconut meat. The coconut meat is then usually dried on a rack over a fire (they call them copra smokers) which helps to dry out the coconut meat which turns a grey colour and has a rancid smell. Sometime it can take up to 3-4 months before the villagers can get their bags of smoked copra to the big copra mills in town. The mills are usually situated 100’s of miles away from these villagers. The copra mills resemble a smaller version of a sugar crushing mill and processing of the copra is similar to that found in the sugar mills. The copra is pressed and because the coconut is very smoky or rancid they use chemicals to bleach and clean the oil. This happens in all the basic edible food oils today in the market place. This is also the reason why this style of COCONUT OIL (Copra) processing became known in the old days as poor man’s oil or dirty oil.”
This oil is what we call RBD, standing for Refined, Bleached and Deodorised. Although the most common coconut oil, and the cheapest, it does not contain all the goodness of the virgin one. If the oil has also been hydrogenated so not to solidify under cooler temperatures, the oil then contain high levels of trans fatty acids.
What is virgin Coconut oil?
“Good quality Extra Virgin or Virgin Coconut Oil should taste and smell like coconut. It should be a very fine oil and will quickly melt in the palm of your hand with body heat. If it does not solidify or melt quickly you know it is a much thicker and inferior oil. Extra Virgin Coconut Oil should be in a natural form and gravity or natural filtering of the oil is used. This type of Virgin Coconut Oil will still retain a level of fine coconut particles and usually a very high level of lauric acid. This type or premium VCO should not contain any microbe activity or foreign matter. If wild forest coconuts are used and are very mature trees they retain a very high lauric acid level and the oil can retain a slight golden colour.
While some of the Virgin Coconut Oils currently on the market are crystal clear in appearance they usually are made from the soft immature coconut flesh before the nut hardens. This type of coconut processing usually makes it easy to remove the coconut flesh and extract the oil with fermentation or boiling off the liquid. Because the coconut is not as mature it usually has lower lauric acid levels and the smell and flavour of the oil is not as strong.
It must be remembered that all coconuts when opened will quickly ferment and unless the moisture is removed properly during processing the oil will sour. Good quality Virgin Coconut Oils should have a shelf life of at least 2 years without any deterioration of the oil at all. When cooking with Virgin Coconut Oil the oil will fry at very high temperatures. Good quality Virgin Coconut Oil can be mixed in both hot and cold drinks.”