Indonesians are adding a new touch to a herbal medicine that was first made in Java’s royal palaces more than 1,300 years ago.
Women in Central Java meticulously cram bottles of jamu, a homebrewed elixir, into their bamboo baskets. Their hands are stained yellow from the freshly powdered turmeric that they used to make their tinctures that morning, along with other rhizomes, roots, fruits, bark, and leaves.
The jamu gendong (jamu sellers) set out on foot or by scooter along their daily route as the sun rises, only pausing to deliver a thirsty customer one of their herbal infusions.
Some of them hold up to eight bottles, each containing a custom-made jamu made to improve the user’s energy at any period of life, from youth to old age. As they pour the priceless liquid into a cup, they take care not to spill a drop.
Because jamu, which translates to “prayer for health” in old Javanese, is what the bitter-tasting beverage is known as among Indonesians and is used for more than just quenching thirst.
Because jamu is so deeply ingrained in Indonesian culture, the nation has proposed it for inclusion on the Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage List. According to Metta Murdaya, author of Jamu Lifestyle:
Indonesian Herbal Healing Tradition, “Jamu is a herbal medicine at its core; at its most complete, it is a reflection of how a society sustains wellness across thousands of generations.”
The beverage has a long and illustrious history; it first appeared more than 1,300 years ago, during the Mataram Kingdom (between the 8th and 10th centuries). Prior to being introduced to villages by healers, it was first consumed in the royal court. From then, families shared the recipes among one another through word of mouth.
The bas-reliefs of the Borobudur temple in Java contain allusions to the herbal medicine, claims anthropologist Patrick Vanhoebrouck, who has spent more than 20 years living in Bali.
He claimed that jamu and herbal medical remedies were previously used to maintain health in 9th-century temples in Central Java, according to archeological study. In archaeological digs, pestles and mortars, which are used to make jamu, have also been discovered that date to the Mataram Kingdom.
Fourth-generation jamu maker Vanessa Kalani claimed that although the earliest recipes were discovered in royal court archives, jamu may have existed before. “I think that jamu comes from a time when people lived in the forest and took whatever they needed from it to recover, whether it was a particular leaf or a flower,” she said.
It is a herbal medication. Similar to this, Malaysians practice ramuan or ramu, a herbal food, medicine, and beauty tradition that combines the healing customs of the local orang asli people.
While rice and fragrant ginger and kunyit asam, which combine turmeric and tamarind, are two of the most well-known jamus, each Indonesian island has its unique form of the beverage that is based on the native herbs and spices that grow there.
Visitors to Central Java can find tinctures of sweetened turmeric and tamarind, loloh cem-cem, a favorite of the Balinese prepared from hog plum leaves, and kopi rempah, a beverage made on the Moluccan islands from coffee and spices like nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon.
The drink, which can be bitter due to the use of root vegetables, may also vary depending on the family. A startling 15,773 different jamu recipes were discovered in the archipelago, according to a 2012 survey by the Indonesian Ministry of Health.
The belief that harmoniously balanced levels of emotional, mental, and spiritual energy have an impact on physical health is widely held among Javanese people.
Each jamu is thought to have unique characteristics, such as those that might reduce blood pressure or soothe menstrual cramps.
The health-giving drink is considered holistically since it addresses the body, mind, and spirit, despite the fact that several of its ingredients are said to have their own health advantages, such as galangal’s ability to relieve muscle pain or turmeric’s ability to aid in digestion.
Many Javanese are aware, according to Vanhoebrouck, that harmonious levels of emotional, mental, and spiritual energy are thought to have an impact on physical health.
The tradition was in danger of dying out when a report from 2015 stated that 49.5% of jamu makers were over 60 and just one-third of them had apprentices. But, a new generation of makers and businesspeople is now embracing the historic beverage and adding their own spin to it.
When Jony Yuwono, the proprietor of Jakarta’s Acaraki jamu café, observed how well-liked coffee shops were growing, he was motivated to bring back another bitter beverage. The eighth-century tincture is currently being served by him in barista-style surroundings.
Gen Z in Jakarta can be seen ordering kunyit asam and golden lattes at the acaraki (the name for an herbal mixologist during the Majapahit empire). But unlike the jamu gendong, the acakari creates each drink to order using a V60 coffee dripper, French press, or electronic coffee grinder instead of a pestle and mortar.
It’s our responsibility to repackage jamu, despite claims that it’s stale or bitter. Tea, which dates back thousands of years, is essentially what bubble tea is.
The beverage, in Yuwono’s opinion, is still valuable today. “It’s our responsibility to repackage jamu, despite claims that it’s stale or bitter. Tea, which dates back thousands of years, is precisely what bubble tea is “he stated.
The acaraki would frequently meditate, fast, and pray in order to acquire the good energy necessary for healing, according to Yuwono, who was a member of the study team for the Unesco nomination. Novi Dewi, the creator of Suwe Ora Jamu, has given her sofa-filled jamu cafe in Jakarta a modern makeover, but she hasn’t forgotten the drink’s historical roots.
“My grandma has always advised me to maintain my concentration if I wish to assist her in making jamu. The intent must be correct, she claimed “Dewi said. Murdaya concurs that the components are just as vital as the good intentions.
“As recipes have been passed down from healers to communities and from parents to children, positive intentions are essential to jamu. It’s similar to when you claim that it’s your mother’s chicken noodle soup: why is it any better than ordering takeout? The individual who created it for you is “said she.
Visiting Nyonya Meneer, her great-factory grandmother’s that was established in 1919, was Kalani’s first memory of jamu. “The aroma – it aroused all my senses, from one room where women would be cutting eucalyptus on the floor to another area where they would be sorting herbs and spices,” she recalled as the first thing she noticed.
Kalani made the decision to carry on her great-legacy grandmother’s by starting the Jamu Bar brand online when the facility that produced jamu powder closed five years ago.
Some of the 80-year-old ex-employees of her great-grandmother now work as consultants for her. “I felt driven to finish what she began,” Kalani added. “Her recipe book and journal are still with me. Her expertise, her love of herbs, and her dedication to helping people heal themselves are wonderful legacies she has left for us.”
Kalani acknowledges that she has simply adapted her great-recipes grandmother’s for modern tastes by making them sweeter. Because jamu was so harsh back then, she explained, “I’ve made them to fit more of a current palette.” Jamu has also been adapted for the local cocktail scene, so Kalani is not the only one who has changed it for a new audience.
Head bartender Bina Nuraga offers foreign visitors a taste of Indonesia by mixing turmeric jamu with pandan-infused rum at Potato Head, a trendy beach club on Bali. As the jamu is made up of turmeric, ginger, and pandan leaf, it gives the cocktails a spicy flavor as well as a pleasant earthy note and a bitterness, according to Nuraga.
American chef Will Goldfarb, of Netflix’s Chef’s Table fame, is demonstrating how jamu can also be a dessert at his Room4Dessert restaurant in Ubud. The chef, who has jamu every morning, described the elixir as “timeless,” and knew right away which component to put to his “Incidente Stradale,” a creative take on a tiramisu.
In order to avoid becoming too monotonous, the plate is lightly coated with jamu concentrate, according to Goldfarb. “Our botanical bomboloni (Italian doughnuts) line recently used jamu as well. It consists of passionfruit with a crunchy jamu crust.”
Young businesspeople, meanwhile, are adamant about expanding jamu. Good Jamu was recently introduced in the Netherlands by a third-generation Moluccan. In the midst of the pandemic, Anna Uspessij, who had spent seven years in Indonesia discovering her roots, returned to the Netherlands. She intended to keep cooking jamu as part of her daily ritual after learning how to do it in Bali.
Uspessij began producing fresh turmeric and ginger jamu for her family and friends when she discovered that the Netherlands was the only country that sold jamu in powder form. She now sells her Good Jamu brand both online and in organic grocery shops all over the country thanks to word-of-mouth marketing. She claimed that the tropical, orange juice can mislead Dutch consumers: “They say, ‘I thought it would be sweet,’ but they still believe it tastes really delicious.
The businesswoman stated she hasn’t changed the ingredients to suit Western tastes and that she now intends to introduce the brand to Germany: “I don’t want to muddy up this cultural treasure.”
A US jury found the former face of Mexico’s fight on drugs guilty of drug trafficking.
The former minister of security for Mexico, Genaro Garca Luna, was found guilty of stealing millions of dollars from the Sinaloa drug cartel, the largest organized crime organization in Mexico.
Garca Luna, who was detained in the state of Texas in 2019, has asserted his innocence.
Life in prison is a possibility for the 54-year-old.
The Department of Justice announced that Garca Luna will at the very least serve the obligatory minimum of 20 years.
After a four-week trial and three days of jury deliberation at the US District Court in Brooklyn, New York, the verdict was rendered.
The former chief of the Mexican equivalent of the US Federal Bureau of Investigations allegedly collected millions of dollars from members of Joaqun “El Chapo” Guzmán’s Sinaloa drug cartel who delivered them in briefcases, according to the prosecution.
The highest-ranking Mexican official ever tried in the US is Garca Luna, who relocated there after leaving office.
On Twitter, Jess Ramrez Cuevas, a representative for current Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, praised the choice and criticised Felipe Calderón, who served as the country’s previous leader.
Under Mr. Calderón, who supervised a war on drug cartels that started in 2006, Garca Luna worked.
Mr. Ramirez Cuevas wrote, “Justice has come for the former squire of Felipe Calderón.” The atrocities committed against our people “will never be forgotten.”
The verdict has “huge consequences” for the US and Mexican governments’ fights against corruption and organized crime, according to British author Ioan Grillo, an authority on Mexico’s criminal underworld who resides in Mexico.
According to him, this might inspire prosecutors to pursue other cases. By relying solely on the testimony of drug dealers and failing to have any physical evidence, they “took a certain risk.”
He noted that Garca Luna’s sentence might also deter other Mexican authorities from acting in a “openly corrupt” manner.
If you’re a Mexican agent, you’ll be considering how much exposure you give the Americans, he said.
The ex-minister, who is credited with being the brains behind Mexico’s war on drugs, is alleged to have given the Sinaloa drug cartel information about its competitors and forewarned it about police enforcement activities.
Garca Luna refuted the charges.
The allegations of Garca Luna’s connection with the Sinaloa cartel were first made public during the trial of Joaquin Guzmán, who was given a 2019 sentence of life in prison plus 30 years.
During Guzmán’s trial, a former cartel member by the name of Jesus “Rey” Zambada testified that he had sent millions of dollars in payments to Garca Luna.
Nine cooperating witnesses, the majority of whom were convicted cartel members, including Zambada, testified in support of the former minister’s prosecution.
Garca Luna opted not to testify at the trial, but his wife, Linda Cristina Pereyra, did so and made an effort to minimize their means of subsistence. The Sinaloa cartel could not have created a “global cocaine empire” without Garca Luna’s assistance, according to US prosecutor Saritha Komatireddy in her closing statement.
She said that they bought the defendant’s protection with bribes. And they received what they had paid for.
The witnesses, according to Garca Luna’s attorneys, were “saving themselves” by testifying against him after committing “horrific crimes.”
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The conviction wouldn’t surprise anyone who had been closely following the trial in Mexico, according to Alejandro Hope, a retired intelligence official from Mexico.
He told BBC News that while many people would still be skeptical, “That was definitely enough to convince the jury.”
The cooperation between the US and Mexico could “complicate some elements,” he warned.
There won’t be any sort of break-up or public argument, he continued. “But the fact that the US is keeping an eye on Mexican officials will be known. That will make life difficult for certain people.”