If you have been reading this blog regularly, you would know what a big, big, big fan of neera I am. In what seems like a lifetime ago, when I was residing at Ahmedabad, Appa and I would sneak out of the house on cold, cold winter mornings, bundled up in layers of warm clothes, in search of neera – the sap obtained from a variety of palm trees, including coconut palms and toddy palms. We would gulp down mouthfuls of the sweet nectar in ecstasy, in spite of the neera being utterly chilled. Back then, we would get it only in the winter months, only chilled, only sold for immediate consumption there and then in glass tumblers, and only early in the mornings. Apparently, any exposure to sunlight causes neera to ferment and turn into alcohol, a big no-no in Gujarat. Sigh, do I miss those days or what?!
Not even a single winter has passed, in the six years I have been in Bangalore, wondering why neera cannot be available here, in this city. The OH loves the drink too, and we would have loved the chance to sip at it every once in a while. On our visits to Pune and the rest of Maharashtra, we have taken the opportunity to gulp down copious amounts of the beautiful, cool drink.
Having said that, you must understand when I say I was thrilled to bits to learn, recently, that neera is now available in Bangalore, in packaged form, from Karappuram. I got in touch with the person in charge of marketing it, immediately, and was even more thrilled when he said he could deliver samples to my place. He was sweet enough to turn up the next day with a couple of bottles of the neera, as good as his word. We were advised to have it chilled, for it to taste its best, and that is just what we did.
Verdict: I thought Karappuram neera had a beautiful palm flavour to it, and was wonderfully sweet and refreshing. It did have a slightly more acrid taste to it, as compared to the fresh neera I am used to, but it is definitely the closest thing. It was wonderfully fresh, there are no doubts on that count. The husband found it just as good as fresh neera, no difference at all. We are definitely rooting for this product!
A bit about Karappuram neera:
Karappuram neera, made from sap tapped from the Karpagam island in Kerala (where coconut water and the said sap are the sweetest, apparently, as sweet as sugar water) is presently available at Cash Pharmacy, St. Marks’ Road. It will soon be available at Namdhari’s too. The firm is currently in talks with a number of stores across Bangalore, in attempts to make it available even more readily.
This neera is pasteurized after extraction, to stop it from fermenting into alcohol and to give it a longer shelf life. It comes packaged in little bottles of 200 ml, priced at INR 40 each. Yes, the price is slightly high as compared to that of the same quantity of other packaged drinks available today but, I am told, the health benefits of the neera far outweigh those of any other commercially available drink. Also, there is a huge amount of effort involved in extracting the sap from the palm trees and, I am assured, the price barely covers the cost of extraction, pasteurization and packaging.
I am told that the packaged neera has gotten the approval of the Coconut Development Board, and all other food- and government-related approvals are in place. Apart from the pasteurization, there is no other processing done on the neera – meaning that you get it as good as freshly tapped from the palm trees of Karpagam. There is no added sugar, either.
I am also told, in detail, of the several health benefits that neera possesses – a low Glycemic Index, no cholesterol or fat, an abundance of iron and calcium, a high amount of Vitamins A, B and C, and several curative properties, all of this backed by meticulous research by various institutions of repute.
I understand that neera is, slowly and gradually, gaining foothold as a health drink and as a major ingredient in cocktails and mocktails. The ready availability of packaged neera will go a long way towards further strengthening this foothold.
Apparently, Karappuram is also engaged in the production of neera vinegar and neera honey, healthier alternatives to the chemical-loaded vinegar and not-so-natural honey available in the market these days. These products are not readily available in Bangalore yet, but hopefully, they will soon be. I am told they have received rave reviews from the few who have used them, as has the neera. I can’t wait to try out the neera vinegar and honey now!
Disclaimer: I was given sample bottles of Karappuram neera free of cost, in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.