Red-stained tongue, lips, and fingertips? It must be Zanzibar’s favorite baobab candy, fondly known as ubuyu in Swahili. Especially popular with children, the ubuyu experience is all about sucking on dyed red baobab seeds that have been boiled and coated in a heady mix of sugar, salt, black pepper, cardamom, and vanilla.
Respected as a “superfood,” plain baobab seeds have a natural citrus kick, and the longer you suck on sugar-spiced ubuyu, the more it packs a punch, leaving bursts of sour, spicy, and sweet. Ubuyu fans keep their lips pursed around mouthfuls of seeds until the last flavorful drop is sucked before spitting them out.
Just a few baobab trees grow on the islands of Zanzibar, so the ones growing in mainland Tanzania provide the bulk of the seeds needed for this sweet treat. Known as the “tree that fell from the heavens,” the ancient baobab holds court as one of the most majestic, sacred trees in the world, providing shade, shelter, and healing on the African continent.
Babu Issa is a famous ubuyu producer that sells bundles of the treat throughout the islands of Unguja and Pemba, as well as mainland Tanzania. According to Yahya Twaha, who currently oversees sales, a 300-gram bundle now goes for around 1,000 Tanzanian shillings (44 cents USD).
Babu Issa prides itself on its traditional recipe, but recently they’ve experimented with milk-based ubuyu and will happily add hot chili peppers to the mix upon special request.