Kola nuts are native to African rainforests and are the original flavoring source of our popular cola sodas. It is high in caffeine. Today, the nuts are not used as often for that purpose.
The kola nut is the fruit of the kola tree, a genus (Cola) of trees native to the tropical rainforests of Africa. The caffeine-containing fruit of the tree is sometimes used as a flavoring ingredient in beverages, and is the origin of the term “cola”.
The kola nut has a bitter flavor and contains caffeine. It is chewed in many West African cultures, individually or in a group setting. It is often used ceremonially, presented to chiefs or presented to guests. It is preferred among African Muslims, who are forbidden to drink alcohol. Chewing kola nut can ease hunger pangs. Kola nuts are often used to treat whooping cough and asthma. The caffeine present acts as a bronchodilator, expanding the bronchial air passages. Frequent chewing of the kola nut can also lead to stained teeth. Among the urban youth of West Africa, kola nut is becoming less popular.
Kola nuts are perhaps best known to Western culture as a flavoring ingredient and one of the sources of caffeine in cola and other similarly flavored beverages, although the use of kola (or kola flavoring) in commercial cola drinks has become uncommon, being replaced by artificially flavored syrups.
Originally a tree of tropical rainforest, it needs a hot humid climate, but can withstand a dry season on sites with a high ground water level. It may be cultivated in drier areas where ground water is available. C. nitida is a shade bearer, but develops a better spreading crown which yields more fruits in open places. Though it is a lowland forest tree, it has been found at altitudes over 300 m on deep, rich soils under heavy and evenly distributed rainfall.
Regular weeding is a must and can either be done manually or by using herbicides. Some irrigation can be provided to the plants, but it is important to remove the water through an effective drainage system, as excess water may prove to be detrimental for the growth of the plant. When not grown in adequate shade, the kola nut plant responds well to fertilizers. Usually, the plants need to be provided with windbreaks to protect them from strong gales.
Kola nuts can be harvested mechanically or by hand, by plucking them at the tree branch. When kept in a cool, dry place, kola nuts can be stored for a long time.