Within a few minutes of leaving the Kruger, we spotted a sign telling us that The Birthplace of Amarula was only a mere 13 km away. For those of you who are not familiar with Amarula, it is the second most popular cream liquor in the world (Bailey's is obviously first, and frankly I can't even think of a third or fourth cream liquor...). I may have had a mild obsession with the stuff a few years ago, and I still use it in baked goods once in a while (Amarula frosting on chocolate cupcakes is tops!).
While it was not yet noon, we couldn't resist to take the quick detour. After all, what are the chances we would happen upon the very birthplace in rural South Africa of this lovely cordial? When we arrived, we were greeted with a glass of Amarula on ice, and told that it was not currently production season, so instead of a tour of the processing area, we would be shown a DVD. The DVD took us through the production process, from marula fruits to the final product. We learned that the marula tree cannot be cultivated; the trees grow wild in the area and local villagers collect the fruits and sell them to the company by the kilo. The marula tree is also called 'the elephant tree' because elephants love to eat the fruits. We also learned that Amarula was first produced as a spirit, but it was so strong (over 100 proof) that people were literally dying. Dying! But someone had the bright idea to dilute the stuff with a bit of cream, and the rest is history.
The visit was one of the randomest detours we took on our South African road trip, but it was rewarding: I was happy to learn about the company's investment in and connection with the local community through their method of harvesting and various other projects, and drinking an ice-cold glass of Amarula right from the source reminded me a bit of home in an odd but comforting way.