Photography Zaphs Zhang Art Direction Sherli Chong Hair Koji/Kizuki+Lim Makeup Benedict Choo, using Shu Uemura
Adeline Quek, 46, started drinking two teaspoons of coconut oil a day seven years ago after her Ayurvedic therapist in Bali recommended it to her to improve her health (she’d had dengue twice in 20 years). “I bought a jar of locally made coconut oil from her, but forgot all about it when I went home,” says Quek.
Six months later, she chanced upon the jar and was surprised to find that the coconut oil was still as clear as water, and smelt fresh. That was when she knew she had something special and started taking doses of it. Two months in, she felt healthier – inside and out. “I had new-found energy, and even had less grey hair.”
During that time, she also reconnected with former college mate Sera Kuek, also 46. They realised they had much in common: They loved Bali, they loved natural ingredients, and they had both stopped working. Cue lightbulb moment.
“The idea to produce a wellness line based on coconut oil didn’t come to us immediately,” says Kuek. But the more the two met, the more it kept popping up in their conversations. “I was only drinking it, but I knew it had skin and hair benefits too,” says Quek. So they did research.
The K and Q of Koqo come from the respective surnames of Sera Kuek (above left) and Adeline Quek. Add two Os, and it’s Koqo, short for coconut.
What they found: “To date, there are more than 1,500 studies on how it’s one of the healthiest foods, namely for its healthy, medium-chain fatty acids, which are broken down by our bodies and converted to energy faster than long-chain fatty acids,” says Quek.
“And it has antibacterial and antifungal lauric acid, which is ideal for treating UTIs, gum disease, tooth decay, candida and yeast infections. Our customers also say our coconut oil gives instant relief from their eczema.”
They found out that two types of coconut oil are available: refined and unrefined (aka virgin). The former comes from filtered copra (dried coconut flesh) – it’s very low in nutrients and unhealthy for consumption. The latter, virgin coconut oil, comes from fresh coconut flesh that is either dried then pressed, or put through wet-milling, where water is added to fresh coconut flesh and left to sit overnight. The milk, oil and water separate naturally, and the oil is collected. This process produces the purest form of coconut oil – the kind that Q and K want.
Dehusking the coconuts in a plantation in Bali.
The only glitch: No certifying body exists to QC what’s truly “extra virgin” or “virgin”, leaving them only one option – import it themselves, and educate consumers about it. “We went to the original source – the farmer who made Adeline’s first jar of coconut oil, and persuaded him to work exclusively with us outside of Bali,” says Kuek.
Koqo, sold online at www.koqoasia.com and at random flea markets, isn’t profit-driven. “We don’t give ourselves a salary,” says Quek. “That’s why Koqo is affordably priced between $18 and $72 despite the high labour cost.” Partial proceeds from sales go to a teenage education fund founded by the farmer Quek and Kuek work with, and to provide financial support to his village’s schoolgirls.
“For us, Koqo is less about business and more about education,” says Quek. “It is our passion to introduce pure, natural skincare to customers while supporting traditional craft in Bali.”
Koqo has four multipurpose Face.Body.Hair products that can be used as moisturisers for face and body, or as scalp and hair treatments. They contain either coconut oil in its pure state (right), or with essential oils like peppermint + rosemary (left), or lavender (centre) for folks who don’t like the smell of coconut oil. The packaging ranges from 100-500ml pumps to 100ml sprays and 150ml tubs. The brand also has an eye-care product and two face/body scrubs; the latter incorporate cacao nibs/peppermint, and Himalayan salt/lavender. Only one Koqo item has no coconut: the Mozz Repellent Spray with citronella, lemongrass and eucalyptus.
This story was originally published in the April 2018 issue of Her World magazine.