Kolanut fruit (Cola acuminata), also spelled "kola nut", is packed with caffeine and theobromine, as well as a number of other natural chemical compounds that make for a powerful and focused energy boost. Due to its impressive stimulating effects, kola has been used for thousands of years in West Africa. Kolanut fruit's caffeine content makes for a strong neurological stimulant that can combat work fatigue, suppress hunger and uplift spirits. The fruit and its extracts have been used in treating respiratory conditions such as asthma and whooping cough thanks to the Theobromine which opens the blood vessels in the lungs for greater circulation of oxygen. It's also believed to aid in weight loss, digestion, and boost metabolic rate.
Kolanut grows as a seed kernel in shelled pods, sprouting from a large Mallow tree. These trees can often grow 60 feet high and are indigenous to the tropical rain forests of West Africa. They can also be found in pockets of Brazil and the West Indies, where they were transferred from West Africa by enslaved peoples during the transatlantic slave trade in the late 1500's. Due to Kola's versatility, it has been used as a cultural symbol, medicine, food and flavoring around the world for centuries.
As a symbol, kolanut has been widely used by all ethnic groups in Nigeria, particularly amongst the Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa tribes. There is an age old saying in Nigeria, "kolanut is produced in the West by the Yoruba, consumed in the North by the Hausa and worshiped in the East by the Igbo."
The trusting ingredient is used to grace social rituals of hospitality as welcome offerings to guests; as sacred offerings in religious preceedings and as a means to channeling the ancestors. It's use is extremely common in gatherings for important life events such as weddings, naming ceremonies, funerals and memorials.
It's history is less foreign than you think, too. Throughout the late 1700's and early 1800's kola was used in Europe and America in tonics to relieve end of day work fatigue. Then, in the late 1880's kola became a household staple in the United States when John Pemberton used it as the main ingredient in the original formula for Coca-Cola. John was badly injured as a confederate soldier in the civil war and became addicted to morphine as a result. Recognizing his addiction he set out in search of a better alternative, finding kolanut (Cola acuminata). Kola has since been replaced with artificial flavorings, its origins in Africa lost through the global expansion of the Coke brand.
It is Bissy's goal to put respect back on kola's name by paying homage to the Nigerian's who grow it and to our ancestors who consumed it for thousands of years.