Tanita de Ruijt’s Turmeric Tonic: The All-Curing Indonesian Elixir

Tanita de Ruijt’s Turmeric Tonic: The All-Curing Indonesian Elixir

Dutch native Tanita de Ruijt became enamored with the volcanic islands of Indonesia a few years ago and quickly became hooked on turmeric tonic. Here she shares what it’s like to run a business from your kitchen.

word ‘tonic’ has been synonymous with ‘gin’ to Londoners
since the late 1800s. But over on the other side of the world,
Indonesians have been sipping their own (far more wholesome) tonic
for over a thousand years. This sunny herbal elixir is entrenched
in the Indonesian diet and consumed for its health benefits. It is
anti-inflammatory, high in antioxidants, fights a bevy of diseases
and reduces puffiness. It also detoxifies the liver, can aid
arthritis and heart disease, boosts the metabolism and levels out
mood swings. Which probably explains why Indonesia often tops polls
for the world’s highest levels of well-being. Now pass me a

Dutch native Tanita de Ruijt became enamoured with the volcanic
islands of Indonesia a few years ago, and quickly became hooked on
turmeric tonic. The golden liquid – a concoction of powerful roots
and flowers – is consumed by locals daily for everything from
curing nausea to accelerating libido. “I got obsessed with turmeric
tonic living in Bali. It was just everywhere,” Tanita tells us.
“Sometimes hawkers sell it off the back of their mopeds, but
traditionally it is sold by ladies who carry bottles on their

Tanita began drinking this ancient solution every day, and made
it her mission to learn the secrets behind it. Indonesian kitchens
are private spaces, and bagging an invitation into a home kitchen
is not an easy feat. But it’s no surprise to learn that Tanita
managed to charm her way into one. “I learned to make the tonic in
a lady’s home kitchen with her children. She taught me everything,”
she says. “I fell in love with it, and I became convinced that
people at home would love it too.”

After returning to London from the sunny clime of Indonesia,
Tanita continued brewing the heady concoction of ginger root,
galangal, fresh turmeric, fermented tamarind, black pepper and
coconut blossom nectar. Last year she launched her company Jamu
Kitchen, and began selling the virtuous tincture at Druid Street

Turmeric tonic is a result of Indonesian people just using the foods that are around them to create something incredibly restorative

Jamu Kitchen embodies a refreshing new attitude towards health
foods, embracing ancient methods of eating. “I’ve always been
around food. My mum was this uber hippy vegetarian, whereas my dad
was always obsessed with steak and good wine. They weren’t together
so I jumped between the two and I think it gave me a really good
idea of balance,” Tanita explains. “I had this moment of clarity in
Indonesia where I realised that the most natural foods are the
healthiest. ‘Jamu’ is the Indonesia system of natural medicine –
kind of what Ayurveda is to India. Turmeric tonic is a result of
Indonesian people just using the foods that are around them to
create something incredibly restorative. I love discovering ancient
ways of cooking and preserving. Applying these ideas in a modern
context is really exciting to me.”

If you haven’t had your head blown off by a bottle of Jamu
Kitchen tonic yet, you’re in for a treat. It can be consumed hot or
cold, and has a spicy, sweet, powerfully remedial flavour. Every
bottle is crafted in Tanita’s home kitchen in single batches. We
watch her whipping up a vat, filling the entire house with its
zesty, rousing scent.

While the deep orange concoction bubbles away on the stove,
Tanita explains the complexities of the process: “In Indonesia they
would drink a big glass with a raw egg cracked in it. The fats help
you absorb the turmeric enzymes.” She continues: “Coconut fats do
the same thing, so I put a dollop of coconut oil in mine when it’s
hot.” We quickly learn that the main player of this potion is the
turmeric, which contains powerful curcumin compounds that are only
activated when mixed with the right components. “It’s all about
food synergy. When all the ingredients combine, that’s when the
magic happens!”

Tanita tells us. Tanita’s glowing tonic is hard to ignore on any
shelf, and is even harder to forget once you’ve taken the first
mighty gulp. Each bottle is a celebration of the culinary
traditions of Indonesia, which are as colourful and delicious as
they are resourceful. “There are so many different flavours across
Indonesia,” Tanita says, pouring the elixir into a row of
hand-labeled bottles. “Every area has its own methods of using the
land. In Bali everything is fresh and sour and sweet, whereas in
Java things are more coconut-y and thick and fried. It’s a
different colour and a different smell everywhere you go. But what
they all have in common is love. There is so much love in the food
there – they see it as medicine as well as sustenance. I think we
can learn so much from that.”

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