‘My concoctions are inspired by ancient blends, culture and wisdom’ — meet tonic maker Tanita de Ruijt

Those who meet the energetic Tanita de Rujit might wonder whether she’s been drinking from the fountain of youth; her vitality is catching. And, perhaps this isn’t too far from reality. The intrepid woman behind Jamu Kitchen’s health-boosting tonics brings inspiration from ancient recipes and Asian cultures to her London customers. We asked Tanita all about her magical drops …

Tell us, how did you get into tonic making; where did it all begin for you?

It all started by chance during my travels in Bali, Indonesia. A lady would swing by my homestay every morning with a magical cart filled with an array of different tonics and herbal remedies to cure what seemed like every ailment under the sun. Turmeric Tamarind Tonic was her most popular remedy. Naturally, I became an avid fan, and somehow managed to convince her to show me how to make it in her own kitchen, along with a few other potions.

Do you create your own recipes, or are your mixtures inspired by ancient blends?

My concoctions are very much inspired by ancient blends, culture and wisdom that’s been passed down from generation to generation. The key though, I feel, is to take this wisdom and make it feel accessible today. There’s nothing wrong with evolving. This is what I’ve tried to do with my tonics, by adapting the flavour of the tonic to make it somewhat more palatable, without compromising its medicinal value. This way, more people will want to drink turmeric tonic – that’s the goal right?

I’m very much guided by South-East Asian values when it comes to my health and wellbeing. Jamu is the system of traditional medicine of Indonesia. What I love most about it, is that it was strongly influenced by the spice trade, other cultures, and the values of Chinese medicine in particular. They took these learnings and applied them to the wide array of natural resources they had available to them, and created their own system. In a way, I want to show that we can do the same here, as a lot of these ingredients are becoming a lot more accessible to us.

Turmeric is native to that part of the world and is therefore found in almost every Jamu recipe, since Indonesians rightly believe that it is anti-inflammatory and a painkiller that both helps to cleanse the blood and improve circulation.

We’re interested in learning more about the health benefits of tonics. What can people expect to gain from drinking Jamu Kitchen drinks?

Drinking my tonics are a way of incorporating more anti-inflammatory herbs and spices into one’s diet in order to take a more preventative approach to health. We’re the only ones that use fresh turmeric root – which is crucial if you’re trying to reap medicinal benefits from this ingredient.

When did Jamu Kitchen begin, and what tonics do you have on offer now?

I started at home in my own kitchen. I’d brew up tonics to sell at Druid Street Market in South London, and it grew from there. The idea wasn’t to start my own brand, but to gauge people’s response to such a new concoction. Luckily, they liked it, and I now make three tonics; the Turmeric Tamarind, Ginger Lemongrass and Chai Turmeric.

All Daylesford Farm shops, 26 Grains and TIOSK are your best bet.

What’s your top advice for someone who wants to experiment with homemade tonics in their own kitchen?

I’m currently writing a book on the subject! It’s going to highlight all of the apothecary kitchen staples you’ll need to get started – most of which will already be lying around and may have overlooked – along with 40 different tonic recipes to get you going depending on how you might be feeling. This way you’ll learn about the medicinal potential of these ingredients and become a lot more resourceful with what you’ve got.

I also run regular workshops on tonic making so keep your eyes peeled on my Instagram @jamukitchen.

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Sonya Gellert

Sonya Gellert is a contributing writer and associate editor for Khoollect. She lives in Sydney....

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