Cola Nut, Niger’s Happy Fruit

Niger is a landlocked country in central West Africa. According to United Nations data, it is the country with the lowest human development index rankings. Not long ago, a reporter from the Global Times went there for a business trip, and accidentally found a special fruit here called Coca-Cola. Yes, it has a relationship with the American beverage Coca-Cola.

White “garlic cloves” can refresh

The reporter first encountered Cola Nuts in a traffic jam. When the car was finally able to move, the driver Belgut found a white garlic-like thing from his pocket, took a bite, chewed and ate it.

I was a little curious and asked him what it was? Belgu said, “Cola, this is a good thing.” He stopped the car close to him and waved to the little boy on the other side of the road. The child came over and took a few paper-wrapped ones. “Garlic cloves”. I paid for two petals, one for Belgu. He said that Nigers love to eat this food, and they will be happy when they eat it. He will chew a flap when traffic jams, soothing his mood.

Belgu works for a Chinese-funded infrastructure company. He is a Zhemma and has six children. His complexion was dark and brown, and he was in his 30s with wrinkles on his face. He recommended Cola. I didn’t dare to try it at first. I checked it online and found that Cola is actually the Coca-Cola in the term Coca-Cola in the United States.

As its name implies, cola fruit is a fruit on the cola tree. The cola tree is native to the tropical rain forests of West Africa and is up to 20 meters high. There is a layer of pods on the outside of the cola fruit. When peeled off, it is a white or purplish flesh, each of which is about the size of a chestnut. Belgu said that if you chew fuchsia cola nuts often, your teeth will stain, so whites sell better.

The reporter took a bite and felt that it was bitter and astringent. It tasted like bitter almonds, but Belguy said that it started to be bitter and chewed when it chewed. It was particularly refreshing. Eating too much can even cause insomnia. Belgu’s words are scientifically based, and research has found that cola nuts contain caffeine and theobromine, which can produce stimulant effects. After eating a certain amount of cola fruit, you will feel feverish and your heart beats faster. It is also said that cola fruit can treat pertussis and asthma. Maybe the reporter eats too little, so it doesn’t feel much.

Can be used for sacrifices and divination

But in Niger, cola fruit is more than just a fruit or snack. It has been an important religious article and medicine in West African culture since ancient times. It is also regarded as a holy fruit by locals. When the locals entertain guests, they often bring out cola nuts, which reflects the host’s hospitality. In some places, giving away cola fruit can express love and can also be used as a gift. Its function has far exceeded ordinary fruits.

Cameroonian musician Manu Dibango wrote a song about the importance of cola nuts in Niamey, the capital of Niger. According to reports, during the local ritual ceremony, the priests first opened the cola fruit pods for ancestors to enjoy, and then shared by the people participating in the ceremony, which is said to be blessed. In some parts of Nigeria, the diviner used four pieces of cola fruit for divination. After throwing the cola fruit, he obtained the answers to the questions asked by the gods according to its front and back, similar to the Chinese throwing. The diviner can also perform divination according to the texture of the flesh flaps.

In places such as Mali, cola nuts have also been used as circulating “currency”, which makes it even more valuable. According to historical records, the ancient Songhai empire in West Africa once regarded Cola Nuts as valuable as gold. West Africa’s legendary rich businessman Al Hassan Dantata built his business empire by trafficking peanuts and cola nuts. The mother of Africa’s richest man, Ariko Danget, is the granddaughter of Dan Tata.

Used to be an ingredient of Coca-Cola

After Western colonists invaded West Africa, they also brought cola nuts to European and American countries. According to the colonists, when the local tribes who first contacted the European colonists met them, they brought out this bitter fruit. Later, its stimulant effect was known to Europeans, and cola nut powder was once used as a “rapid march” drug.

In May 1886, a pharmacist in Georgia, the United States, mixed the ingredients of coca leaf and cola fruit with sugar and caramel to create the original formula of Coca-Cola. The name Coca-Cola is the name of these two main ingredients, and Coca-Cola is the main source of caffeine. Because cola nuts also contain a large amount of nitroso compounds, in order to avoid food safety problems that cause cancer and to reduce costs, the cola company stopped using cola nuts in 1955 and replaced them with artificial flavors and caffeine extracts.

When the reporter asked Belgu that he liked Coca-Cola or Cola Nuts, he said that the beverage was too sweet and too expensive, and he still liked Cola Nuts that can be bought everywhere by the road, that was their happy fruit.