By Niki Widodo
Arif Springs looks forward to presenting at his third consecutive Ubud Writers Festival this month. And who can blame him? His workshops there consistently sell out, and they give him the opportunity to share his knowledge and passion for what he loves so much and knows so well: traditional Indonesian herbal healing.
Arif’s trademark jamu beverages, which he sells under his brand name Djamoekoe (“My Jamu” in old Sundanese), have won a well deserved reputation as premium products, and are sold out of his shop, and by resellers around the island. Every single bottle – Arif has sold thousands since opening three years ago – has been hand brewed by Arif and his kitchen team on the premises at his shop (a pretty little building on Jl Made Lebah, right next to Massa’s Gym).
He insists on using only traditional ingredients, the same used by his grandmother, who was a famed Sundanese herbal healer who taught Arif everything he knows. Turmeric, herbs, roots, barks, spices and flowers go into giant clay pots and simmer until just right – and each brew needs its own time.
Arif’s goal was to reintroduce jamu to younger Indonesians, who he jokingly describes as being “traumatised” by their parents forcing them to drink bitter jamu concoctions in the name of health when they were children. Arif’s recipes use tamarind, aloe, cinnamon and lime to make jamu delicious without diluting its health giving magic.
But what’s surprised him is that the product found a new audience completely. “Four out of five bottles sell to Westerners, either tourists or locals,” he says. “We have expat regulars who’ve bought off us for years now and they stock up every week. Every weekend, at markets in Canggu and Sanur and places like that, we always sell out. They love it!”
Arif hopes the popularity of jamu with the café crowd will spill across to more and more locals. “Indonesians have used jamu for a long, long time now, thanks to its health giving properties, and what better time for it to return than now, when processed foods and Indomie have reduced the nutritional intake for a lot of people in this country?”
“And jamu means much more than just turmeric based drinks. I make tisane and herbal tea blends that are all under the umbrella of ‘jamu’, which is a broad word meaning any herbal mixture that is put together with thought and which helps the body recover or regenerate from specific injuries, ailments and toxins.”
Arif’s workshop at this year’s Ubud Writers Festival will show how many traditional Indonesian dishes – usually saturated in oils and sugars and additives – can be made, and be just as tasty, without having to cook them traditionally at all! The presentation promises to be a delicious mix of ancient ingredients and modern techniques. Arif will present on Friday 26 October, at 11:00AM, at The Kitchen at Taman Banca.