Business Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Sunday, Jul 08, 2007
Capturing the taste of Africa
P.T. Jyothi Datta
Recently in Phalaborwa (South Africa), July 7
If India has Darjeeling tea and France has Champagne, then to Africa it must be the indigenous Marula tree, locally also called the `Elephant tree' that supports products ranging from liqueur to cosmetics.
And one such liqueur that bottles-up this `Spirit of Africa' is Distell Group's Amarula Cream, where the Marula fruit's liqueur is blended with fresh cream to create the smooth drink with its distinct taste. Though the product is not available yet in India, it often features on the "must buy" list of Indian tourists returning home from Africa.
Locals believe the Marula tree has several qualities, ranging from medicinal to aphrodisiac.
But the plum-sized yellow fruit is believed to pack into itself more vitamin than an orange, says Distell's Thato Makgolane.
Africa is home to the Marula tree, specially the Limpopo province in South Africa where the tree grows in abundance, he said. All Marulabased products distributed across the world are produced from this region, he indicated.
Located at about 12 km from the Phalaborwa Gate of South Africa's famous Kruger National Park is the Amarula Lapa, housing Distell's production facility where preliminary levels of sorting and quality control of the Marula fruit are done.
"Locals bring the fruits directly to the facility, or to several delivery points that we have in the village," he told mediapersons visiting the Amarula facility. The fruit is bought from the locals, generating income for about 60,000 people, he said.
The fruit-bearing season is between January and March. It is selected, sorted and washed before reaching the de-stoning tank where the fruit pulp is separated from the hard kernal.
The fruit pulp is subsequently transported in tankers to Distell's cellar at Stellenbosch, South Africa's wine-producing region, where the pulp is transferred into tanks to start the fermentation process in a process similar to wine-making.
The Marula wine is then distilled to produce the Marula spirit, which is oak-matured for two years in barrels.
This is de-barrelled and blended with the fresh cream to form Amarula Cream Liqueur that is distributed in over 100 countries. The final product contains about 17 per cent alcohol and is sold at about 50 Rands for a 750-ml bottle or 65 Rands for one litre.
Amarula was launched as a spirit in 1983 and as a liqueur in 1989, the official said. And the product is sold in parts of Asia. Originally part of Distillers Corporation, Amarula is now part of the Distell Group, listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and formed from the merger of Distillers Corporation and Stellenbosch Farmers Winery.
Other products made from the fruit and capturing the taste of Africa include, the Marula beer, a potent local drink, besides jams and jellies.
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