In December, I went to Au'a Tahiti's open house day for a coco discovery and bowl-making workshop. I went straight to Mahina, nearby the Pointe Venus road, in the Pugibet district... We spotted the little Au'a sign and gathered in the courtyard of a charming house. Kihi and Eriata, the owners, welcomed us with their straw hats, pareos and big smiles.
After a brief presentation of the program, we were treated to a snack of homemade coconut fritters and organic fruits to give us a little strength before our workshop...
Between her part time job as a plastics engineer at TSP and her role of co-manager at Au'a Tahiti, Kihi manages to find a balance between her professional and entrepreneurial life, thanks to Eriata, her partner for life. Together, they began the Au'a adventure in October 2020.
Already sensitive to environmental issues and waste sorting, Kihi has already taken part in several beach clean-up missions on the islands through her work. She met the Tuamotu inhabitants to talk about the importance of sorting of rubbish and recycling overall.Thanks to these expeditions, she was able to take stock of what was going on in the archipelagos...
Copra (coconut oil) turns out to be the main crop grown in the Polynesian archipelagos. However, in the production chain, the coconut flesh is the only part exploited and both coconut husk and shell are discarded.
That's when Kihi came up with an idea: how can we optimize the use of coconuts to ensure a more sustainable management of coconut groves? And above all, what could we do of this natural "waste"? Well... lots of things!
Did you know that there are several varieties of coconuts? Long ones, small ones, round ones, flat ones... There are plenty and each of them has its own particularity and usefulness!
To make bowls, we prefer the Maohi coco, which is small and has a slightly flat base, so it can be placed on a table! Perfect for eating cereals in the morning, or raw fish!
Kihi showed us a few things one can create: glasses, forks, spoons…
That’s the main goal of Au’a, demonstrating one can create beautiful things using natural resources.
What's so special about this workshop is that we create our own bowl from scratch. You're probably wondering how? Well, first of all, we select our coconut from... the coconut tree itself!
I won’t do any acrobatic scene implying me climbing over a 7 feet-high coconut tree, as I'd risk injuring myself and not getting back to the office! In any case, we're looking for a dwarf coconut, which is much more practical... Eriata shows us how to choose the right coconut and carefully explains the process we need to follow to ensure we don't hurt ourselves.
After carefully selecting the prettiest coco, it's time to get to work (or rather, to the grater!)
First step: remove the coconut husk
Second step: break the coconut in 2! (not in 3)
Second step*: drink the coconut water (we don't like waste)
Third step: remove the pulp
Fourth step: grate the coconut to make coconut milk
Fifth step: sand the coconut
Once all these steps completed, you're left with a clean, sanded coconut. The base is ready, and all without a single missing finger! Accessible and intuitive, this workshop is suitable for everyone.
But that's not all: we now need to varnish our bowl to bring out the color of the nut and protect it so that it lasts longer (and becomes more resistant).
What a surprise when we learn we can even choose a design to personalize our bowl! A quick look at the catalog and off I go for a laser engraving. With my first name on it and my little drawing, I sure hope nobody steals it at the office!
You can feel the satisfaction of having created something. I'm pretty proud of my bowl! So, is the challenge successful? Yes, Kihi and Eriata are both pedagogical and very committed! According to Kihi, "In Polynesia we have everything we need, and what's more, it's natural" - that’s her dad's mantra. Coconut is her passion, and she's always looking for new varieties and new shapes. Her aim is to highlight Polynesian know-how and promote its resources.
The workshop lasts 1h30, perfect if you are eager to spend an afternoon with your friends or family, and you'll leave with a bowl as a souvenir! If you get the chance, we invite you to meet Kihi & Eriata and experience the Au'a Tahiti workshop !