An age-old treatment derived from natural plant-based materials, jamu takes its power from the spectacular range of herbs and spices that grow in Indonesia’s cool highlands and steamy lowlands. Once the exclusive domain of Javanese royalty, who consumed it in their quest for beauty and long life, it eventually became an everyday staple, whether made fresh by “jamu ladies” or sold as packets of bitter herbal compounds.
“Studies say that Jamu was being made as far back as in the eighth century,” says Ubud-based raw food chef Arif Springs, founder of trendy new jamu juicery Djamoekoe. “In fact, if you go to the Borobudur temple near Yogyakarta, you’ll find that some of the ancient relief carvings depict people making jamu.”
The Indonesian island of Bali has its own tradition of jamu, with time-honoured recipes that have been passed down from one generation to the next. Many traditional healers will likely prescribe jamu-based remedies, or poorly locals will their own bitter jamu loloh from leaves at home.
Other popular drinks on the island believed to have health-giving properties include the spicy, warming wedang jahe (ginger tea), a staple at spas and yoga studios; as well as the tangy, turmeric-based kunyit rasam, which features on the menus at tea shops and health food cafés.
Today, a new generation of café owners and manufacturers on the health-conscious island are rediscovering the benefits of freshly made jamu, and blending it with a range of other ingredients to create tonics, juices and power shots. For Springs, who hails from Bandung in Java, it’s all about preserving an ancient Indonesian tradition. “Indonesians have used jamu for a long, long time, thanks to its health-giving properties,” he says. “Today, we need to give our bodies more nutrition, and what better way than with jamu?”
Situated in a traditional Balinese compound, this airy health food café serves up organic, jams-based tonics and elixirs in shot glasses.
This modern space majors in inventive cocktails crafted from local ingredients. Get your jamu fix with the Loloh 2.0, inspire by the turmeric-based kunyit asam.
Sip on jamu infusions from Djamoekoe at this multi-concept space, which combines a health-food store, vegan café, yoga studio and cinema.
This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of Silkwinds magazine