Indonesia Clove Cigarettes

Euromonitor International's Tobacco in Indonesia report offers a comprehensive guide to the size and shape of the market at a national level.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

A Good Cigarette Is a Fantasy of Flavor


KUDUS, Indonesia — It was one of those precious moments that seem to prove that life has meaning, a moment of inspiration — perhaps divine inspiration — that makes all the hard times seem worthwhile.

"All of a sudden, out of the blue, I had it," said Djoko Herryanto, a chemist whose mission it is to find the most delicious mixture of spices to enhance the taste of Indonesia's sweet-smelling clove cigarettes.

"Until this day, I don't know," he said. "Did this idea come from my technical knowledge? Or did it come from `wahyu,' a divine inspiration, a flash?"

Indeed, his new creation does seem beyond the imagining of ordinary men.

"A taste of banana mixed with cheese and sugar sauce together with chocolate, all toasted together," he said, still breathless when he thinks about it. "That's the flavor that came to me — Bam! — sweet, nutty, caramelic, fruity, everything!"

A blend of flavors like this may seem hard to imagine in a cigarette, but tens of millions of Indonesians are smoking sticks of candy like this every day. The clove cigarette, it turns out, is a great deal more than tobacco and cloves. It is a complex, infinitely variable symphony of scent and flavor.

Usually about two-thirds tobacco, one-third clove, the Indonesian smoke known as a kretek also contains one more, often secret, ingredient: its sauce, or saus in Indonesian.

This is where divine inspiration comes in: cinnamon, pineapple, licorice, coriander, litchi nut, coffee, strawberry — whatever delights the senses, sometimes in natural flavorings but usually (and more economically) in artificial flavors.

"If you just put in tobacco and clove, it would taste funny," Mr. Herryanto said. "The blending is like making music — how to make the smell and the taste, the positive and the negative flavors, all come into harmony."

Indonesia's 210 million people — mostly its men — smoked 200 billion kreteks last year. There are some 2,000 brands, produced by about 500 companies ranging from tiny family- owned enterprises to some of the biggest and most powerful companies in the nation.

Two big producers, Sampoerna and Gudang Garam, are among the few major Indonesian enterprises that not only survived the economic collapse of the past four years but prospered. Their owners are the only two Indonesians left of a dozen who were counted among the world's richest people before the crash.

Clove cigarettes are so popular in Indonesia that only one smoker out of 10 prefers standard cigarettes, known here as whites. It is one of the few markets in the world where American tobacco companies have failed to prosper.

"Whites are boring," said Baedowi Maroef, the director of the mid-sized Jambu Bol kretek factory here in the birthplace of clove cigarettes. And how else could it be for someone who has smoked kreteks all his life. Some brands even dip their filters in saccharine, making them even more like smokable candy.

When he is too sick to smoke, Mr. Maroef said, he holds his kreteks up to his nose and sniffs them.

Among other things, kreteks offer one of Indonesia's few guarantees of employment. Most are hand rolled and it takes about 200,000 women around Indonesia, working with incredible speed, to keep up with demand. One of the larger companies, Djarum, once held a contest, which was won by a woman who rolled 12,000 in a day.

That is nothing, Mr. Herryanto said, compared with a rolling machine in the United States, which can produce 16,000 cigarettes in an hour.

It is good work, said a roller named Rukayah, 42, her hands flying like lightning as she spoke, "because if I weren't doing this, I wouldn't have a job."

Twenty-six years on the job have given her funny dreams, she said. "Sometimes I dream that I'm locked in here with my friends, still rolling kreteks, and I can't stop," she said.

Developed in the 1880's to minister to coughs and asthma — they were first sold in pharmacies — kreteks were originally wrapped in corn husks, a monsoon-season boon to farmers because that made them waterproof.

Today clove cigarettes are a signature of Indonesia. The whole country sometimes seems to smell of them. In the congested cities, even automobile exhaust is sweetened by the scent of clove.

And they are intimately entwined with Indonesia's history.

"What is that you are smoking, sir?" asked a diplomat, according to an oft-told tale, addressing Indonesia's first ambassador to Great Britain 50 years ago.

The ambassador, Agus Salim, was ready with his riposte: "That, your excellency, is the reason for which the West conquered the world!"

Indeed. In the late 15th and early 16th centuries, it was the cloves of the Moluccas and the nutmeg of the Banda islands — worth more than their weight in gold — that drew European explorers and colonists into the South Seas.

"In this respect, clove may be seen as having played a central role in Indonesia's past and in the history of the world in general," writes Mark Hanusz in a new coffee table book called "Kretek: The Culture and Heritage of Indonesia's Clove Cigarettes" (Equinox Publishing, 2000).

In an introduction to the book, the writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer notes, "You can always tell a kretek smoker by the holes in their clothes — caused by the crackling of the cloves."

A chain smoker since his boyhood, Mr. Pramoedya describes his love of the clove cigarette, saying, "When I moved to Surabaya, I picked up two new habits that would continue to this day — smoking kretek and wearing shoes."

In a taste test, Mr. Herryanto, the chemist, offered a sniff-and-smoke comparison of several delicious- smelling brands. It took his expert nose to tease out the flavorings from the aroma of cloves.

Wismalak Diplomat. Sweet, strong, fruity, mostly plum, with undertones of strawberry and pineapple.

Gudang Garam. Less fruity, more spicy and fragrant with cinnamon, coriander, star anise and lovage.

Sampoerna Mild. A sweetened Marlboro with its chocolate undertone, plus clove and rum.

Nothing seems to happen in Indonesia without kreteks. Fat or slim, filtered or straight, fruity or spicy, they are everywhere. Few people seem to associate them with illnesses like lung cancer.

Asked to describe the quintessential setting for a good smoke, Mr. Maroef smiled a faraway smile. "Most obviously, almost inevitably, after meals," he said. "Or in any relaxed situation, like when you're sitting on the toilet."

His colleague at Jambu Bol, Abdul Aziz, said kreteks also go well with sports, like tennis.

Come again?

"Well, it's difficult to explain," he said. "But after playing tennis it feels really good to have a smoke."

For the Love of Cloves

By Michael Vatikiotis
Issue cover-dated June 22, 2000

KRETEK, Indonesia's ubiquitous clove cigarette, is certainly one of the more unusual topics for a coffee-table book. But the book is not about style, and it doesn't have bucolic pictures of landscapes. Kretek--the name is apparently derived from the sound made by cloves burning with tobacco--is a serious piece of research about a deeply ingrained facet of Indonesian culture.

You don't have to be a smoker, or even to like the aroma of clove cigarettes, to enjoy this book. That's because author Mark Hanusz--a former banker turned writer--has crafted a compelling story about an industry that is a pillar of the Indonesian economy. The book is also beautifully designed, finely illustrated and, for the most part, well written.

One delightful feature is the foreword by leading Indonesian author, and kretek smoker, Pramoedya Ananta Toer. In a simple story of how he took to smoking kretek, we hear about how, as a child, hunger drove him to sell and smoke the roughly wrapped clove-infused cigarettes in the local market. "Smoking was a good way to fend off hunger pains," writes Pramoedya. At 75, he maintains that no doctor has ever told him to give up his 60-year-old habit.

From here, Hanusz takes up the story of the humble kretek, a product enjoyed at all levels of Indonesian society. Invented in Java a little more than a century ago, kretek first took the form of a wad of tobacco and a sprinkling of cloves wrapped in a corn husk and tied up with a piece of red cord. We learn that the idea came to Haji Jamahri, a resident of Kudus in Java, who suffered from chest pains brought on by asthma. By adding cloves to his hand-rolled cigarettes, his symptoms ebbed and kretek was born.

Today, the industry supports an estimated 10 million people, from tobacco and clove farmers to factory workers, many of whom still roll the cigarettes by hand. Hanusz has uncovered some remarkable details; from the complexity of Indonesia's tobacco industry, to the composition of a special sauce, which can include aniseed, rum and, of all things, extract of strawberries. Most manufacturers keep their sauce recipes secret. Perhaps just as well--although mild on the throat, kretek contains no less nicotine and tar than regular "white" cigarettes.

The author also delves into the history of early manufacturers, such as the Nitisemito family. They no longer produce the "Three Balls" brand, but Hanusz relates that when he returned to Kudus with the finished book, members of the family broke down in tears. No one had ever bothered to chronicle the rise and fall of Indonesia's first commercial kretek maker.

Neither, it seems, were the current leading manufacturers very helpful in producing the book. None offered sponsorship, a fact Hanusz points out to those who would otherwise feel uncomfortable about a book dedicated to smoking. "The first reaction of a lot of people," he says, "is how much did the companies pay you--not one dime."

Nevertheless, Kretek did spark some controversy in Singapore, where it was launched in May. Health Ministry officials tried to have the book removed from shelves in local bookstores. After lobbying by the publisher, the threat was lifted. "It was the best thing--almost a banning, but not," says Hanusz, who thinks the bureaucrats were miffed that he did not secure a licence to hand-roll some kretek cigarettes he had brought over for the launch.

The fault with this book, and it's a minor one, is the way it is illustrated. It could do with a few more pictures. There are a few stunningly good ones of old kretek factories and market scenes, and evocative shots of contemporary Indonesians smoking and demonstrating the "calming effect" Pramoedya attributes to the habit.

The author also seems a bit obsessed with packaging and other details of the industry. But then, this isn't really a coffee-table book at all--it's more of an encyclopaedia.

[Kretek: The Culture and Heritage of Indonesia's Clove Cigarettes ] by Mark Hanusz, Equinox Publishing, Jakarta. $75 (HK$600).

Confessions of a Kretek Smoker
By Michael Vatikiotis

Mark Hanusz had a promising career as a banker before he came to Indonesia and saw the country dissolve into chaos after the economic crisis of 1997. His employer offered him a transfer a year later, but instead he abandoned banking and opted to write the story of kretek.

"All I really wanted to do was tell a story about Indonesia when the country really needed it," says the 29-year-old American from Toledo, Ohio.

The biggest challenge he faced was scepticism. Family and friends thought he was mad; photographers questioned whether he could ever get the book published.

Travelling as far as the Netherlands to source historical photographs, he also visited some 60 kretek factories and collected 800 packets of the clove-infused cigarettes. For Hanusz, researching the history of kretek was not just a scholarly pursuit; it was his passion. "I don't know if I could have written the book if I didn't smoke," he admits.

Despite the hint of eccentricity surrounding the topic, Hanusz builds a convincing case that the subject matter is important. He points out that when a kretek manufacturer in East Java recently shut its workers out of the factory because of a labour dispute, the government forced the company to reopen for business. Not only were the workers not getting paid, but the whole town depended on the kretek factory for its livelihood.

Bolstered by the book's enthusiastic reception in Singapore, Hanusz is already planning his next tome: on the glass painting of central Java.

Kretek: The culture and heritage of Indonesia's clove cigarettes


I hasten to add that, despite its focus on the clove cigarette industry of Indonesia, anti-smoking activists should have little to complain about. For the author of this artfully crafted book is no stooge for the tobacco industry, nor is he a promoter of this much disparaged vice. In all events, an examination of kretek cigarettes and the kretek industry require a more circumspect treatment than the sweeping condemnation dealt out these days to anything containing tobacco. Critics who would rebuke this narrative on the 'evil weed' betray their ignorance of and insensitivity to the deep cultural roots of this distinctive product. Similarly, it is no small matter that the industry provides employment for thousands of workers who would otherwise have no job prospects. Hand-rolling kreteks for the commercial market is a vitally important cottage industry for many people in remote rural areas because of its low start-up costs and its labour-intensive production. For better or for worse, it was the one industry that actually kept up employment during the worst of the crisis, as a good smoke apparently became a substitute for other, more expensive recreational activities.

The more open-minded, careful reader will be taken on a pleasant journey through time and space to explore the inextricable link between kretek cigarettes and various aspects of Indonesian life. The historical itinerary begins with the attraction of Western traders to the Spice Islands, where cloves became an alluring object of imperialistic ambitions. The scholarly text and exquisite photos evoke the scent of the clove-spiced cigarettes that undoubtedly form a lingering sensory memory for visitors to any portion of the vast Indonesian archipelago. An intriguing aspect of the book is the discussion of the spice-laden sauces that companies use to give distinctive flavors and aromas to their brands. Their recipes for these pungent pottages are guarded as jealously as is the formula for Coca-Cola, and many have been around for longer.

In all events, the merits of Mr Hanusz's effort are evidenced by the support of an icon of Indonesian literature, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, who wrote the foreword and also attended launches of the book in Jakarta and Singapore. Mr Pramoedya, widely known as the 'conscience of Indonesia', whose books were banned and who was imprisoned under the Suharto regime, is a leading nominee for the forthcoming Nobel Prize in Literature.

This is not merely a book for tobacco aficionados. It is a worthy celebration of Indonesian culture. Anyone interested in Indonesia can gain from the thoughtful insights offered. *

- Hanusz, Mark. Kretek: The Culture and Heritage of Indonesia's Clove Cigarettes, Singapore: Equinox Publishing (Asia) Pte. Ltd. (2000), pp. 203 + xix
ISBN 979 95898 00.

Dr Christopher Lingle is Global Strategist for eConoLytics and author of The Rise and Decline of the Asian Century.


By Mark Hanusz
(Equinox Publishing; 224 pages)

Arrive at any Indonesian airport and your initial assault, even before you get to the taxi drivers, will be from the scent of kretek, the clove-blended cigarettes unique to this nation. The fragrant (detractors say sickeningly sweet) smell of kretek permeates almost every corner of the vast archipelago, from bars and cafés to mosques and government offices, so much so that it is generally taken for granted. That is, until now. In Kretek: The Culture and Heritage of Indonesia's Clove Cigarettes, first-time author Mark Hanusz explores the product's rich cultural and commercial history. Two years ago, the 29-year-old American ditched his job as a stockbroker in Jakarta and spent 18 months traveling across Indonesia and to the Netherlands in pursuit of this uniquely Indonesian product, a blend of tobacco, dried cloves and a special sauce that varies with each of the 1,800 brands on the market. The results are impressive. Hanusz presents a beautifully illustrated and detailed account of this 120-year-old industry that is as inseparable from Javanese culture as its shadow puppets. The book is a groundbreaking work of research that will appeal as much to anthropologists as it will to those curious to learn more about that strange smell found only in Indonesia.
By Jason Tedjasukmana

Kretek: The Culture and Heritage of Indonesia's Clove Cigarettes

By Mark Hanusz

Carried on the warm breezes of a sultry tropic night, the scent of kretek — Indonesia's indigenous clove cigarette — is the aromatic soul of a nation, the fragrant embodiment of all things Indonesian.

Bringing together tobacco from the New World and spices from the Old, kretek is a product of extraordinary historical circumstances, but its home is Indonesia, where the lingering traces of its distinctive aroma are an ever-present part of everyday life.

Featuring a magnificent selection of specially-commissioned photographs and an equally fascinating collection of rare maps, paintings, prints and other archival images, Kretek : The Culture and Heritage of Indonesia’s Clove Cigarettes tells the remarkable story of kretek from its origins as a remedy for asthma to its ascendancy as a cultural icon.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Rokok Clove Cigarettes

Clove Cigarette or rokok kretek, possibly had some people heard strange, but the circle of smoker, artist and musicians.. this are a lifestyle and taste, instead be able pressure release for the hard worker. Kretek have a various sensational brands in United States and Europe like Djarum Black, Djarum Black Cappuccino, Djarum Super, Gudang Garam In

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