D17 Is The Cultivar Referred To As Coffee Durian
With the assumption that the D# label that tags along with a durian type is supposed to be a register number with MARDI, and that the lower the number supposedly means an earlier registration date, a durian that carries the alias D17 would mean one of the earliest durians to be good enough to be officially registered with the agricultural institute.
At least that was what I was thinking when I first came across this durian from Johor.
But the truth is that there is no D17 on the official list of registered durians with MARDI. So you’ll be excused for scratching your head on how this official-sounding name came about.
I’m sure there is an interesting origin story behind this lovely cultivar that is nestled under the umbrella of Segamat durians.
But the best I have is a story.
The legend is that about 50 years ago, a mouth-watering kampung durian tree estimated to be over 100 years old (yes a century) was discovered in the jungles of Pontian Johor. It’s foliage was so tall that rifles had to be used to collect grafting material. This was D17.
Marketers and sellers were probably aware of this registration disconnect between the D17 name and official status causing confusion in consumers. And maybe that’s why D17 is more and more marketed as S17 these days.
With the “S” maybe meaning “Super”, “Samsung Galaxy S17” or “So-I-don’t-care-as-long-as-it-sends-me-into-delirium”.
On a slightly more serious note, when this durian originate from Bekok plantations, it would be labelled S17 instead of D17. It can sometimes be referred to as Bekok king (彼咯王). In 2022, it was assigned an official registration number of D212.
It also goes by the monikers Chia Chee (赤刺) which is a reference to the red-brown tip of the thorns, lapan (number 8), duri coklat (chocolate), kopi (coffee), snow white.
But the pet name that is more attention grabbing to durian connoisseurs is coffee durian. That should give you a hint of how this cultivar tickles your taste buds which we will talk about later.
I’ve also noticed that the older generation can sometimes refer to this durian as lao tai po (老太婆) which means old lady. This group would contend that this fruit originate from Yong Peng. And the name old lady was a reference to a farmer who grew it who was… as you might have guessed… an old lady. The inference is that they are different cultivars even though their physical attributes are eerily similar.
Some people I’ve met also speculate that lao tai po is actually a premium variant of D17 like what Sultan is to D24. And the name comes from the wrinkle skin of the fruitlets resembles that of an old lady. Well… the truth can sometimes be stranger than fiction…
To make things even more confusing, many durian sellers use the terms D17, S17 and lau tai po interchangeably. Treating them like they refer to the same thing.
The non-descriptive name D17 actually gives this durian an allure of humility. As if it is so confident of itself that it doesn’t feel the need to brag or use an attention-seeking title to attract patrons.
And rightly so!
Some of the most famous and popular durian stores in Malaysia and Singapore have D17 on their regular product list. Consider that these stores are so overwhelmed by customers that they typically only stock up on the fan-favorites like mao shan wang and jin feng. And it says a lot when they are more than willing to set aside their precious shelf-space for this rather unknown cultivar.
Features of D17 durian
This is a durian that is considered small, with the larger ones seldom exceeding 1.75kg.
The shape of the husk is somewhat between oval and elongated. More elongated than you would say oval. A little like tekka.
The grass-green thorns are large at the sides and get smaller and a little more clustered as you get close to the top where the stem is. The large thorns are what people would describe as pyramids.
It has probably the best representation of how cliparts of durians are presented. The vector cartoon-looking durians that we see in books and websites would resemble D17.
A star shape is found at the bottom that can remind you of mao shan wang. But this is a little less outrageous.
As you open up the fruit with a crowbar, you might be stunned at how thick the husk is. Leaving very little room for the pulp fruitlets itself. I guess marketers would be quick to point out that this is all about quality over quantity.
You will typically find 1 or 2 fruitlets inside each storage pod. But I won’t rule out any outliers that stores more.
The flesh is pale and dull yellow. Some people might even term it as milky white.
Unlike many other durians, this one has wrinkle skin that doesn’t appear to vary with the quality of the harvest.
It has an uncanny resemblance to the look of XO.
Any doubts you might have about the reputation of D17 would dissipate like smoke from an incense when you stuff that fruitlet into your mouth.
This is creamy. Wet enough to feel like yoghurt. Smooth like a restaurant pudding. Thick like smoothie. A little sticky. And the flavour is just the right amount without going overboard.
The watery texture means that it is mission impossible to have your fingers clean after eating it. And you are guaranteed to be sucking on your fingers as a finishing move. Unless you are using a glove of course 😀
The market talk is that this durian ripens fast. And as any old-timer would tell you, the flesh gets more watery the more advanced it is in the ripening stage. So if you want to savour S17 durian in a little more solid state, then you would have to make a trip to Johor to grab them within 6 hours of naturally falling off the tree.
It is slightly sweet. And triggers a lingering bitter aftertaste that would arouse the memory of a barista brewed cappuccino. Which is why it has been nicknamed the coffee durian by reviewers.
The implication is that if you don’t like bitterness or coffee, then this might not be the durian for you. Then again, you don’t need to feel a little bitter for not being able to appreciate this durian after seeing so many people gushing over it.
If there’s anything which you would call a niche durian, this is it.
Like wine, appreciating durians can require an acquired taste.
I’m lucky that I love bitter durians and absolutely love coffee. So super 17 is one of my secret weapons… if we can call it that.
But remember. The riper it is, the more bitter it gets. So this is a balancing act that you have to weigh up yourself.
There is one drawback though. And that is that the seeds are rather large.
D17 harvest season
While D17 is one of those cultivars with an unshakable cult following, it does not have a huge number of farmers lining up their land with it’s saplings.
This is probably because of how quick this fruit ripens after the drop.
This can pose a huge logistical challenge to bring fruits to market in a timely manner to maximize sales before the flesh melts like ice-cream. It’s just too much of an economical risk to take on, especially when you are not a major operation aided by high-tech equipment.
This is why if you are able to find S17 in Singapore that is still in high quality, it’s down to it being your lucky day. It’s all about astrology and how the stars are aligned.
That, or you really are in the good books of the seller.
The supply can be sporadic throughout the year. With the main bulk arriving during the period between late August and well into October.
You can expect to pay a price of about $15/kg to $18/kg. Not bad for a durian that consistently ranks in the top 3 for a lot of durian hunters.