Whipped Shea Butter is one of the best creations for dry skin. Did you know that in order to actually make Shea Butter it must be whipped? On our trip to Ghana we got a chance to see how crucial whipping by hand is to the processing of Shea Butter. In the previous post, I described some of the first steps to making Shea Butter. These included picking the fruit, washing the seeds, laying seeds in the sun to dry, crushing and roasting.
Now we will discuss and share videos of the final steps to making handmade unrefined Shea Butter in Ghana.
Grinding Shea Nuts
To prepare the Shea Nuts to be whipped they must be ground to extract the oil. This grinding of the Shea Nuts is done using a nut crusher at a finer setting than the first crushing of the shea nuts. The women of Ghana carry large bowls of freshly roasted Shea Nuts on their heads to the grinding machines. At which point, they are carefully placed in the nut crusher to be ground in order to release the oils for the next step of the Shea Butter Making process. A teenage boy operates the machine while the women continue to roast and dry the Shea Nuts. This process used to be done completely by hand.
These bowls are significant as they are used throughout the entire Shea Butter making process. From collecting the nuts, carrying to various work stations, washing them several times and whipping the Shea, they prove to be very versatile and efficient containers. The women who carry them were like royalty to me.
You cannot imagine the temperatures the women work in (above 95 degrees Fahrenheit) and how heavy the containers are. This is the definition of hard work! It truly is a testament to their strength, resilience and endurance to craft the highest quality Shea Butter in order to support their family. Some women carry out all of the steps with their babies tied around their back, stopping only to nurse young children and take a drink of water.
Whipping Shea Butter
Women work very hard to whip shea butter by hand to prepare it for cooking. There is no machine, the women do all of the whipping by hand for about 45 minutes. The freshly ground shea oil is poured into the bowls and water is slowly added to achieve the perfect consistency for whipping. The women then use their hands, arms, shoulders, legs and back muscles to whip the Shea Butter to the right viscosity. I did it for 3 minutes and was out of breath and sweating!
As the Shea Butter is whipped and kneaded you can feel the consistency of it on your skin. It has a very creamy feel with a bit of grit to it. Your skin feels extremely smooth with a bit of shine after the whipping Process.
Cooking Shea Butter
The final stage before packaging the Shea Butter is the cooking process. During this time the women work over a large old fashioned pot heated by firewood and charcoal while stirring with a large tree branch (this would put our soap making spatulas and stick blenders to shame). While preparing the pot another women works diligiantly with a machete, mortar and pestle to prepare the traditional plant based dye to be added to the Shea Butter.
The women take pride in carefully watching the pot and skimming off the Shea Butter as it slowly rises to the top. It truly is a marvel to see first hand. I have poured a lot into my handmade creations but nothing comes close to the amount of blood, sweat and tears these incredible women endure to create handmade shea butter in support of their families.
The result is a carefully strained handcrafted, unrefined Shea Butter that is set aside to cool and then packaged for shipment.
More Than Shea Butter
I now have an unbreakable emotional connection to Shea Butter that I would have never had without seeing the process first hand. It’s so much more than Shea Butter. Watching the women, teenagers, babies and even young boys pull together in the community was a sight to behold.
The work is hard, the work is laborious, and it’s excruciatingly HOT!!!! Yet in still they take pride in what they do and some do it with a song coming through their lips.
When I came home, I slowly examined every ingredient that I own with a different appreciation and perspective to never take any of it granted again.