A few weeks ago I spent some time at a village and through stealthy watching and documentation, I learned the secrets of SHEA BUTTER PRODUCTION!
the body shop has a special deal with several ladies groups around Northern Ghana where Shea nuts grow plentifully in the climate and the groups are paid a premium rate so it is pretty cool system. the ladies in this particular group used their bonus to build a school and hire teachers. I actually have not done much research on the benefits of this system because I worry I will come across something that suggests this is not sustainable and hurts some players so I am allowing myself to be delightfully ignorant.
I spent the a few days watching the women work. I tried doing most things and while initially exciting rather repetitive and unimaginative after awhile. this is to be expected as the process must be repeated weekly and you can’t really switch things up to make it more exciting because there is a necessary method to follow. if I lived there I would encourage the ladies to use their bonus on a stand-up comedian rather than a school. education will always be there but a good laugh? priceless
pick the shea nuts. This is done by someone climbing into the tree and vigorously shaking the branches till all the ripe nuts fall. I tried doing this and though the trees were excellent for climbing I didn’t know which trees were sweet (ready for shaking) so after 30 minutes I returned with 9 unripe nuts and received in a return a useful proverb from one of the men “better for the boy who returns immediately with no Shea nuts than the one who stays out long for only 1”
this is a Shea tree as are the rest in the area. really excellent for climbing.
Next is what to do with the nuts.
you can either peel the green outside and feed to the animals, or you can eat it. I ate the outside of approximately 100 and boy were they fine.
When finished you can drop them on the ground and somehow they get collected into large piles and dried
The Shea nuts are then beaten until they crack, not unlike less refined forms of torture.
The shells of the nuts are often used as kindling for the fires that will cook the nuts
The Shea nuts are places in this contraption and cooked.
One problem with this technique is that is uses lots of firewood so the women have tried to implement a rule “use a tree. plant a tree.” so far the results have not been completely successful.
I spent some time turning this machine.
Good workout on your arms and abs, but rather tedious and boring. Shame a new way hasn’t been discovered.
here are the cooked Shea nuts
which are then sent into the grinder.
Which I am pretty sure is semi-broken because it the mouth indicates the amount coming out should be about 20 times what was actually dribbling out. They insisted it always is like that, so either it was never a god machine, or the engineer who made it was an idiot. I bet he had tons of Borders.
then it is time to mix the freshly smushed paste.
This is done by smiling white girls with braids.
Surprise! its me, and no, they didn’t hire me.
whatcha gotta do is pour cool water on the paste and mix it with one arm. the paste will gradually become paler, then you will add hot water, mix for a bit longer and finally fill the whole bucket with water. the butter will rise to the top and you fish it out using only your right hand. I was about to use my left when all the ladies pulled it away. I didn’t bother pointing out that it would save considerable time using both hands, and that my left was probably cleaner than my right hand .
you can see here the separation of solid and liquid. It doesn’t work unless the two are completely separate like state and religion. the liquid is used later in the process but is can also by poured through and sieve and the remains used for fire starting, or ….
it can be used to paint houses to help seal in
the cracks and waterproof it.
Now it is time to boil it. the white stuff is plopped into a pot, placed over the fire, and boiled. then it is stirred for a long time till the oil rises to the surface. you remove the top oil which is light coloured and separate it from the dark oil on the bottom which can be used for eating (apparently Shea oil is the only cholesterol free oil). the impurities at the very bottom are can be fed to the animals.
the oil cools and hardens then boiled again with the brown liquid from the first hand-stirred session. it leeches the remaining impurities out. this time, the oil is ready to be shmoothed (I don’t know what it is called, but kind of feels like that word sounds)
look, a unrefined Shea butter! they will shmack it and shmooth the goods into a…
time to weigh the Shea
once it is weighed it is Shmacked
to some plant for refinement and flavour and then shipped to body shop locations all around the world! buy body shop. I made some of the butter so it is likely some of whatever you buy will contain particles of my skin and sweat. also body butter feels so swell anyway, why wouldn’t you buy?