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What is this jamu stuff?

Ask an Indonesian person about jamu and they’ll probably tell you that growing up, it’s what they had to drink whenever they were feeling poorly or drained. That’s because for over 1,300 years, jamu has been the archipelago’s go-to elixir for all kinds of ailments: a sore throat, skin problems, sexual health, indigestion, diabetes and more. It’s a drink for people of all ages from all walks of life, and is consumed by royalty and civilians alike!


The makers of jamu have always been women, who are referred to as 'jamu gendongs'. They might ask their husbands for a helping hand when it comes to the laborious processes of collecting and grinding the ingredients, which are mainly ginger and turmeric, but it’s women who develop and record the many recipes for all the different types of jamu, master the technique of mixing the ingredients together and take on the task of selling it – usually out of woven baskets, which they carry on their backs.


Indonesians used to believe that jamu should taste bitter in order to work, that the feeling of a fire running through their body meant the jamu was doing its job. But most of the jamu made today – depending on the type – tastes zesty and slightly sweet, with tropical undertones. Its smooth texture makes it delightful to drink, whether its hydration or vigour you seek.