Appearance and production of unrefined shea butter
Part 1 shea-series

Family pedigree: Vitellaria paradoxa, syn. butyrospermum paradoxum, shea tree or Karité tree

The natural occurrence of the Shea tree is from West Africa to the Upper Nile region, i.e. in 21 countries of the Sahel zone. The main producing countries of shea butter, also called Karité butter or Beurre de Karité, are Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia, Benin and Burkina Faso. The shea tree is a characteristic tree of the savannah woodland.

shea tree in Ghana
shea fruit

The shea tree grows wild and has a height of 6 to 12 metres and is the most similar to the oak tree. The large leaves are in clusters at the end of the branches and are elongated and rounded at the front with a wavy edge. The flowers grow in dense clusters of 50 to 100 flowers. The flowers are beige-white and smell similar to honey. The fruits have a size of approx. 5 x 3 cm and the nut contained in it has a thick skin. The ripe flesh is edible. The nuts have a similar shape to the fruit and are chestnut-like with a brownish shiny colour. When the shell of the nut is cracked open, the shea nut kernel is obtained. It is collected in May, June and July during the shea season when the fruits fall to the ground. 

Sheabaum in Ghana
Crocodile-like tree trunk
Shea nut after peeling away the flesh


The fruit of the shea tree is collected. This is followed by removal of the flesh, which can be eaten. The nuts are then dried in the sun. Another possibility is to boil the nuts first and then dry them in the sun. To remove the shell, the nuts are gently processed with wooden gag and sifted through coarse-meshed baskets to separate the shells from the kernels. The small parts of the shells fall to the ground or are blown away by the wind and the seeds remain in the basket. The kernels are then passed through an oil mill and roasted in an oven. This is the only way to extract the oil from the nut. Once the crushed, roasted nuts have cooled down again, they are crushed in a mill or grater. This mass is stirred by hand until the oil separates from the water. It is then heated, filtered, cold stirred and finally packaged.

Sortieren der Sheanüsse in Ghana
sorting the shea kernels
Hand im Sheabutter in the Making
extraction of the oil

Particular production steps

  • Collecting fruit
  • Peel fruits
  • Wash the nuts & sun dry them
  • Beat the kernel out of nuts
  • Crushing kernels
  • Roasting & cooling kernels
  • Grind kernels
  • Beat by hand until the oil extracts from the water
  • Boil paste with water
  • Take it from the fire & cool down
  • Sieve the oil
  • Stir the oil until it becomes creamy butter
Manuell betriebene Maschinen für die Herstellung der Sheabutter

Most of the work is done by hand. Only for the crushing of the nuts 3-4 manually operated machines are used.

The quality of shea butter can vary greatly depending on the manufacturer. This is like the production of wine. Wine is not the same as wine but the extraction of the fruit, the production and storage play a central role. The SHEA YEAH shea butter is always unrefined and organic certified.

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