The National University of Lesotho (NUL) Innovation Hub is happy to introduce another milestone, an amazing tea by Joalane Mohale and ‘Matsomoli Mokhele, the NUL graduates. The Hub is now incubating Bolepo tea. It is a delicious and healing tea made from maize silk (Bolepo ba poone).
It was first developed by NUL students, commercialised outside NUL, and made its way to the NUL Innovation Hub. The hub is now preparing it for large scale commercial production.
“It is a tea that combines taste and medicinal properties in one package,” ‘Matsomoli Mokhele said.
Is it really from maize silk?
We are talking about that thing which most farmers throw away as a nuisance when they harvest their maize! They are throwing away gold. But with these folks in view, maize farmers should prepare themselves for a lot of cash.
“Popularity of this tea is shooting over the roof,” Joalane said. “We are already saying to farmers out there, don’t throw it away. You will cash in from it.”
Plans are under way to make sure that more people can collect and bring the silk to the NUL Innovation Hub for processing.
Let’s talk about the nature of this tea. In English, the proponents of this tea like to call it silicone, named after a famous element, silicone. This is because silicone sounds like “silk corn” from “corn silk.” Corn is another name used for maize and it is popularly used in North America.
However, Basotho would have none of it! “Don’t we have enough products with English names already,” they protested. Customers demanded a Sesotho name and customers are always right.
So they settled for a name Bolepo.
Bolepo is not your normal tea.
It combines amazing taste with medicinal properties. In the department of taste, it is simply delicious. Its smell is out of this world. Some have even compared its smell to that of cocoa. It is no wonder then, that it has a dedicated army of followers.
Among them are NUL students, especially the ladies. They often claim that it helpsthem with period pains. Others just love it for its ability to refresh. You see, NUL students are going through hard times right now. After being away from school for quite some time, they are catching up with semester demands, working seven days a week.
They need a relief afforded by Bolepo tea. They say it eases stress.
Some older folks have claimed it assisted with arthritis. One person has even claimed it helped with kidney stones. Bolepo proponents are not doctors, so we may not know. What they do know, is that maize silk has been scientifically proven to be medicinal.
Scientists have found that corn-silk has anti-oxidants. These are plant compounds that protect your body’s cells against free radical damage and oxidative stress (whatever that means). Oxidative stress has been blamed as the course behind a number of serious illness such as diabetes, heart disease, and inflammation.
For the rest of us, Bolepo is about just enjoy its testing, healing or no healing.
The girls have travelled a long and tricky journey with this product. As we said, it was first developed in the NUL laboratories while they were still students. It was a research project. They were not going to let it go. So when they graduated, they tested it outside the university.
“We used to use very expensive boxes for packaging,” they said. It didn’t work. When they entered the Innovation Hub, one of the things they learned was the importance for lowering the cost of everything. That would make their prices cheaper and more affordable.
So they revised the packaging method. They now use well sealed plastics.
They are happy.
“We have even tested our product at the NUL labs and confirmed that it was quite rich in vitamin C,” they said.
So they now plan to be the first large-scale tea company in Lesotho. In the next few years, they hope their tea brand, Bolepo, will dominate the local tea markets. That is very much in line with the mandate of the NUL Innovation Hub. Its role is to professionalize these business and prepare them for mass production.
Well, there is nothing new about the maize silk tea. It has been used by the Chinese, the Indians and the American Indians. Now, it has made its way to Lesotho through the NUL Innovation Hub and we are loving it—we love it!