How to tapping Benjoin Tree

General tapping methods

In Vietnam, styrax trees are tapped for the first time at 7-8 years of age. In general, the trees are felled when they reach about age 10, the exact age depending upon the demands of the shifting cultivation rotation being followed by farmers. The trees are tapped during June to Aug, when they are bearing flower and the green leaves. At that time, the bark is easy to cut. About 1-3 weeks after tapping, the styrax tree will close the tapping cuts with benzoin, but sap and resin will continue to be secreted. During the cooler, dryer winter season, the resin will dry and become hard and fragile. It is at this stage that the benzoin can be collected.

In Southeast Asia, three general methods are employed for benzoin tapping and these are described below.

Malaysian tapping

There are two Malaysian tapping methods. The first consists of tapping the trunk about 40 cm above the ground. Using a sharp knife, a triangular cut 15-20 cm long is made with the triangle pointing downwards. Three such triangles are cut into the tree bark at the same level, to a depth of about 2 mm. The bark and wood are removed from each cut and the resin begins to secrete. Resin is collected every 3 months.

The second Malaysian tapping method also employs triangular-shaped cuts pointing downwards, but is somewhat different from the first. In this method, three lines having three cuts each are made, one above the other. The first line is 40 cm from the ground, the second is at 80 cm and the third at 120 cm. As in the first Malaysian method, resin is collected every 3 months.

Indonesian tapping

Trees of Styrax benzoin and S. paralleloneurum are the source of Sumatra benzoin. The Indonesian method of tapping uses three tools. A hoop-shaped knife is used to rub and clean off the bark. Styrax trees in Indonesia are very old (about 60 years of age) and the bark is thick. Next, a wedge, the second tool, is inserted between the bark and wood to make the tapped area into a semi-parabola for collecting the resin. After that the bark around the tapped area is beaten. Resin is collected about 3-4 months after tapping. A semi-parabola knife (tool 3) is used to cut along the tapped area to open the bark before collecting the resin. The resin is generally of good quality and classified as Grade A. After another 3-4 months, a further quantity of resin is collected from the tapped area (Grade B). Finally, a third collection is made after another 3-4 months (Grade C).

Vietnam & Laotian tapping

A forest knife is used to cut the bark, making an incision about 5-10 cm in length, without damaging the cambium. Usually, however, the wood is injured. The knife is then twisted to open the bark before allowing it to close. Tapping occurs at about 1m from ground level. There are three or four lines (depen on size of tree) cut into the bark, to the right, front and left. Village benzoin tappers also climb the trees using a fixed bamboo pole with a rope to serve as a ladder. In this manner, tapping can be done up to a height of 12 m. In some locations, the bark surrounding the tapped area is beaten to stimulate resin flow.