Apr 04.2

Making Shea Butter: In a Nut Shell

Ethical Buying

Shea trees grow throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and produce the small, shiny nuts that eventually transform into the gorgeous shea butter we use in our products.

We recently visited our suppliers, The Ojoba Women's Cooperative, in Ghana to learn how they create shea butter, from the first crack of their shells to the smooth final product!  

1. A nut picking group gathers the unshelled nuts from surrounding shea trees. They crack each nut to remove the shell, and then wash them thoroughly.  

2. The clean, de-shelled nuts are then spread out on a great slab of concrete to dry. Several of the ladies are known as resident 'nutologists' and specialize in picking out any nuts that might compromise the quality of their final butter.  

3. The dry nuts are brought indoors to a grinder. The grinder creates a fine powder that looks (and smells) like cocoa powder.  

4. The crushed nuts are then taken outside to be roasted. Ojoba uses two different methods simultaneously: roasting in large barrels over an open fire and in a solar oven container. Both methods take only half an hour!  

5. Now that they're nice and toasty, the nuts are popped back into the grinder to become a thick, dark paste. It looked so much like melted chocolate that it was hard not to take a bite!

6. Here comes the fun part-the kneading! The shea paste is kneaded by hand until the fat (or the oil) rises to the top. Why don't they use a machine for this? The women found they made a better quality butter from doing it by hand. The kneading is very rhythmic and usually takes three women 30-45 minutes to get one batch ready.  

7. They add fresh water to the whipped butter to separate out the solids from the oil. The solids are scooped out and washed of any residue.

8. The solid butter is then boiled in a large cauldron over an open fire to refine it even further. The oil that rises to the top is skimmed off and left to cool. This will be the final shea butter!  

9. The hardened butter is then hand scooped into twenty-five kilogram packages, ready to be shipped to LUSH!  

A special thank you to Karen Wolverton for sharing her amazing photographs from our trip to Ghana.

Julia Hamfelt

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