Acaraki: Raising Appreciation for Jamu

Written By
Annisa Puspa Andira

Edited By
Fazrah LR Heryanda

Photo Source

In facing the sudden pandemic that responsible for more than 200.000 deaths globally, lately, everybody attempts to rack their brains to survive the virus. Drinking jamu-traditional herbal drink has become a favored choice to maintain health. Jamu is still believed to be an alternative in preventing disease and improving the immune system. Long before the jamu hit sudden surge popularity, Jony Yuwono, founder of Acaraki, aims to restore the glory of jamu gendong by elevating the packaging of jamu. He tells the story behind Acaraki and how preserving jamu can contribute to reviving the local culture.

The practice of herbal medicine estimated to have existed before the era of Majapahit and Mataram based on the picture of herbal medicine in the Borobudur Temple relief, which was built around~ 600AD. And since then, jamu has been a herbal drink of the royal member passed down to generations. The Ministry of Education and Culture set jamu as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Indonesia in 2019. Over time, the tradition of drinking jamu seems outdated and not as popular as drinks such as coffee, tea, or the hippest beverages like boba, matcha, and others. Four years before establishing Acaraki, in 2014, Jony conducted the reasons behind why people rarely drink jamu even though jamu is highly filled with its efficacy. He found that 70% of the respondents felt that the bitter taste aroused people’s reluctance to drink jamu. The fact is fascinating because if the flavor is the main reason people have been hesitant to drink it, then why do people drink coffee when it attracted a high number of aficionado that similarly bitter taste from jamu. This question then has raised Jony’s curiosity.

From his journey in finding the answer, he found that it’s never the taste to be the problem, but how we drink it. As the human tongue has limitations distinguishing five basic tastes–sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami—only those flavors will be felt by the tongue, which in this case, is bitter. Therefore, the way to appreciate the inclination is to sip it and smell it through our nose. The combination of the aroma and taste on the tongue creates a distinctive flavor and penetrates our taste buds. It also led to Jony’s realization that the appreciation of all types of drinks in the world is through the nose, including wine, tea, beer, and whiskey.

This formula later had been implemented by Jony in the establishment of Acaraki in July 2018. Acaraki means the profession of concocting jamu, according to Madhawapura inscriptions from the Hindu-Majapahit kingdom. Acaraki offers the unique as compounding with a modern process that adopts today’s coffee makers. Instead of boiling, throwing away then grounds, and extracting the juice, Acaraki uses modern coffee-making equipment such as Aeropress Coffee, French Press, V60 Dripper, and Moka Pot. The innovations offered by Acaraki not only provide the tools they used but also the techniques and combinations of other flavors that make jamu taste friendlier to the tongue. For example, if we take a look into Acaraki’s beras kencur, the first judgment about jamu might vanish right away since the presentation is much like a latte.

Behind the innovation and variants of Acaraki’s jamu menu offered by Acaraki, Jony has a mission to foster the local appreciation of jamu. When studying jamu, Jony discovered its philosophy that perhaps most people unaware of it term jampi usodo, which jampi means prayer and usodo means health or wellness, so in short, jamu means prayer for wellness. Most of society interprets jamu as a beverage only taken when someone feels under the weather, making it inapplicable for a healthy person. However, if jamu means prayer for wellness, it comes to Jony’s mind, is the prayer will only be said when we hit by an illness? “Obviously not, since prayer is something we do routinely despite any religion. Furthermore, as a prayer for wellness, it means that jamu supposed to be taken regularly under any circumstances. Our ancestors believed this philosophy,” said Jony.

Jony Yuwono
Jony Yuwono

"It is possible for us to preserve and restore our cultural glory by adapting to today's changes. It doesn't hurt to try it, because we don't want to be the generation who responsible for tearing apart our roots."

As a part of our cultural identity, therefore, Jony considers appreciation for jamu is crucial. An increase in jamu‘s trend during the pandemic certainly is a positive movement for its existence. “The tradition of drinking jamu which slowly forgotten has caused a crisis in the industry. The raw materials are becoming increasingly scarce because most of jamu farmers switch to planting materials that considered more salable than jamu ingredients. However, the increasing trend of jamu can be a good start as people want to learn more about jamu, which fosters deep interest in it,” as Jony explains it.

Through Acaraki, Jony wants to inspire young people to value jamu, as a long-embedded culture. Acknowledging our own culture will undoubtedly strengthen our roots. The way Acaraki concocting jamu serves as an analogy to revive our culture by combining it in different ways or in ways that are regarded as relevant today. “It is possible for us to preserve and restore our cultural glory by adapting to today’s changes. It doesn’t hurt to try it, because we don’t want to be the generation who responsible for tearing apart our roots.”