We work alongside Southern India’s coconut farmers and processing units who find themselves with much ‘waste’ coconut water after they’ve removed the harvest of white flesh from inside the mature coconuts. Normally this waste water would be released into the drainage system, but this in itself causes pollution of water and the soil to become acidified.

We rescue this coconut water, place it into vats and sterilise it, resulting in an energy-rich, entirely natural nutrient upon which our bacterial culture can feed.  We combine the nutrient and the culture and then just let the bacteria do its thing. The fermentation period takes between twelve to fourteen days, at the end of which time: hey presto! A sheet of cellulose ‘jelly’ has been produced!

What exactly is this jelly?  

The name of the substance is Bacterial Cellulose. Bacterial Cellulose is a natural compound consisting of dense web of nano fibres of cellulose. It grows in its pure form and therefore no chemicals need to be used to extract it as in case of plant based cellulose.

Malai is not the only product where Bacterial Cellulose is used. The potential of this super material has been explored by scientists and designers alike and many areas of study have come into life during last decade. As a result you can find it used in food, cosmetics, medical industries as well as aeronautics!

We harvest the jelly which then undergoes a process of refinement.  It is enriched with natural fibres, gums and resins to create a more durable and flexible material which may then be formed into flat sheets in a range of thicknesses and textures, or moulded seamlessly into 3D structures. A range colours can be achieved through the addition of natural dyes, if so desired.

The final stages for creating Malai include leaving it to air-dry, and then softening it whilst applying gentle water-resistant treatment (without adding any plastic coatings or synthetic ingredients).

The expression ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ really encapsulates the story behind Malai.