The Process of making shea butter is long and arduous. This is a simplified but complete explanation. The women of the co-operative, who work hard to make it, would probably laugh a little at our simplistic explanation.
The Shea Karite tree - "Tree of Life"*
After harvesting the nuts are shelled, this takes some time, then gently they are crushed to a fine grain. They are prepared for boiling under low heat. The boiling starts the extraction process. It is then left to cool. A long process of stirring and gently heating and cooling follows - for over 24 hours.
After some hours the very rich oils comes to the surface and is 'creamed ' off. (My mother says its like magic because it is brown when being boiled and left over-night this creamy coloured fat rises to the surface), then it is placed into large calabashes (gourds), wrapped in kapok leaves or formed into blocks and packed into specially lined boxes.
It takes about 20 man-hours to make one batch of 125 kilos. A strict process is adhered to in order to maintain purity and high standards. The people who make them are experts. It's been a tradition in their families, villages and towns for generations.
Our Shea Butter
We get our shea butter from Northern Ghana (a place called Tamale) and sometimes Bokino Faso or Togo, regions that have traditionally produced shea butter for thousands of years and source of highest quality Shea Butter. Click on VIDEO (coming soon) to watch interview. This way we can guarantee the extraction methods used and ensures that it is ethically traded. We will not accept any Shea Butter that has been extracted using solvents.
Our Shea is sourced from Certified Organic and Fairly/Ethically Traded directly from the makers.
DID YOU KNOW That refined shea butter (often found in cosmetics) can go through a heat process of up to and over 400 degrees Fahrenheit (chemical refinement are also used). This almost certainly destroys most or all of the shea's beneficial properties. Also chemical processing makes the shea white and a little chalky. Look out for shea that has no scent this means it is either expired or refined. Either way its no good. The only place you find real shea in these cosmetics - is on the label!
What is it Used for
You will find shea butter in a lot of hair care and skin care products cosmetics, shampoos and lipsticks . Some of the larger manufacturers and cosmetic companies are jumping on the Shea Butter bandwagon now by adding small amounts of Shea Butter to their products. Don't be fooled by this in some cases – its just tokenism or clever marketing. Check the ingredients see how much additives there are and the percentage of shea, if it is near the end of the listing its probably less that 10 per cent. (There are good ones out there but few).
Shea butter has mythical and even magical status in some African cultures. The Fulani people, a tribe of people who are spread throughout West Africa (many being in Ghana and Nigeria) use it before and after wedding ceremonies for preparation of food and to rub all over the bride and the groom).
DID YOU KNOW Shea is also being used in chocolates (5% to cocoa) or as coating on White chocolate bars. (An EEC directive since June 2000), Also used in this way in US and Japan. Explains why it smells like white chocolate perhaps? Or is it that white chocolate smells like shea.
NOTE: shea is no relation to cocoa butter.