The coconut palm tree and the French Polynesian islands. Brought together by the mysterious hand of destiny, no one can imagine the sight of one without bringing the other to mind. Like tranquil giants reaching ever so gracefully towards an indifferent sky in a constant and immutable sort of communion. Docile companions swaying gently under the playful command of the soft trade winds. Silent witnesses of long forgotten adventures and conquest, the coconut palm trees are as much part of the islands as they are part of the Polynesian myth.
And if the tiare flower claims a rightful crown over all the other Polynesian flowers, then without any doubt the coconut palm tree must be its royal counterpart, and their magical union is best translated by the birth of the extraordinary scented oil that is the MONOI de TAHITI.
Beautifully plain but ever so graceful, the coconut palm tree is an unmatched sight against the perfectly blue Polynesian sky. No wonder it has inspired so many a painters and seduced so many a tourist turned photograph for the occasion. But even under such unbounded admiration the Polynesian coconut palm tree remains completely silent as to its mysterious origin and no one knows for sure neither whence he came nor how it reached the magnificent Polynesian shores, a few thousand years ago.
Nevertheless, it was most likely the coconut palm tree that enabled the first Polynesians to survive on what were then hostile lands where nothing grew, neither fruit nor vegetable. It was probably the coconut juice that quenched their thirst when no drinking water was found and the coconut's delicate meat that nourished them when there was nothing else to eat. Generous provider, the coconut palm tree gave them shelter from the intense sun and the abundant rains, he clothed them with its strong leaves and fibers and kept them warm with its burning wood when the skies turned colder.
To this day, the coconut palm remains the most utilized Polynesian island tree and covers approximately 150,00 acres of land. Under favorable conditions, the coconut palm tree grows its first fruits during its 6th year and will roughly produce 60 coconuts per year, from its 10th to its 70th year. As the very young nut begins to form it is completely empty and contains no nutrients. When its size increases, the shell hardens and becomes filled with a transparent liquid that will turn into the precious oil once the coconut is fully grown.
When they are fully mature, the coconuts fall spontaneously form the trees. It is at that time that they are gathered to undergo a long and ancient process, which begins with the extraction of the coconut almonds. Cracking the shell open with the swing of an ax does that once exposed, the two coconut halves are left for several hours in the sun, until the almonds have shrunk enough to be removed and broken into small pieces. The fragments are then taken to special flat wooden barracks covered with sliding metal roofs, which are popularly known, on the Polynesian islands as "coprah dryers". The sliding roofs are only used at night and during the rainy season. Te coprah is left to dry for more than a week until the coconut meat has lost over 90% of its moisture.
Placed into special natural fiber bags, the coconut fragments are shipped to the unique oil mill located on the island of Tahiti where they will be thrown into special machines and grinded to a very fine coco flour. That flour will be heated up a t temperature of 125 degrees and finally pressed into raw coconut oil. After that step, the oil will undergo more refining in order to remove all impurities and to obtain the highest possible quality oil that is required by increasingly demanding buyers.
Once the refining process is completed the coconut oil is placed into special storage tanks until it is purchased by the few Monoi manufacturers who will proceed individually to the final maceration step with the Tiare flowers in their respective factories.
Today, as it has been for centuries, the coconut palm tree remains an intricate part of the Polynesian culture. From birth to death, on land or at sea, he has always been present. He has fed them, sheltered them, looked after the. It is more than an ordinary tree; it is their very own Tree of Life!