DONT BE FOOLED ! Many companies are using shea butter today in there formulations at amounts no more than 0.1% to legally advertise the benefit of shea butter to attract consumers to buy there product. REAL SHEA BUTTER is a slightly yellowish or ivory-colored natural fat extracted from the nut of the African shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa) by crushing, boiling and stirring. It is widely used in cosmetics as a moisturizer, salve or lotion. SHEA BUTTER is edible and may be used in food preparation. Occasionally the chocolate industry uses SHEA BUTTER as a substitute for cocoa butter, although the taste is different. sometimes a root called porotutu is added to achieve the yellowish colour.
The traditional method of preparing unrefined shea butter
Separating/cracking: The outer pulp of the fruit is removed. When dry, the nut, which is the source of shea butter, must be separated from the outer shell. This is a social activity, traditionally done by Women Elders and young girls who sit on the ground and break the shells with small rocks.
Crushing: To make the shea nuts into butter, they must be crushed. Traditionally, this is done with mortars and pestles. It is hard, grueling work - with the women spending hours lifting the heavy pestles and slamming them into the mortars to crush the nuts so they can be roasted.
Roasting: The crushed nuts are then roasted in huge pots over open, wood fires. The pots must be stirred constantly with wooden paddles so the butter does not burn. The butter is heavy and stirring it is hot, smoky work, done under the sun. This is where the slight, smoky smell of traditional shea butter originates.
Grinding: The roasted shea nuts are ground into a smoother paste, water is gradually added and the paste is mixed well by hand.
Separating the oils: The paste is kneaded by hand in large basins and water is gradually added to help separate out the butter oils. As they float to the top, the butter oils, which are in a curd state, are removed and excess water squeezed out. The butter oil curds are then melted in large open pots over slow fires. A period of slow boiling will remove any remaining water, by evaporation.
Collecting and shaping: The shea butter, which is creamy or golden yellow at this point, is ladled from the top of the pots and put in cool places to harden. Then it is formed into balls.