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Sven harvesting the kanuka

Okiwi School children visiting Sven to participate in the harvesting of the kanuka

Distilling the oil

My first still was a very small one.  The pot was an old steel can with a bolted lid.  The condenser was made of steel and aluminium piping and the oil separator was a brandy bottle with holes drilled in it to let water in and out.  The kanuka leaf material sat just above the water which was then heated from the wood.

The first few extractions were a real eye opener.  I had expected our oil would be the same colour as the Australian oil, a clear yellowish colour.  When reddish, golden, yellow droplets floated to the surface in the separator I first thought it was scum or grease residue.  However, I learnt that this is the colour of our kanuka oil when it comes into contact with iron or steel and a chemical reaction takes place.  When a stainless steel vessel is used the colour is light yellow to a golden yellow.  Manuka varies from light green to dark green.

Only a small amount of oil could be extracted with this small still, just 5 to 6 mls a day.   I used this unit for a number of years, extracting just enough oil for my own use and for friends.  

The most widely used oil  is kanuka and that is what I extract now. Steam is forced through a 350kg basket of kanuka leaves to create and cool vapour, separate oil from water and produce roughly two litres of oil at a time. The system is fired by an old generator and driven by an equally antiquated diesel engine.

The oil separating