Indonesia’s Spice Legacy and Netflix Tale

2 min read –

Almost everyone knows that Indonesia was colonized for centuries by Europeans, especially the Dutch.

However, a lesser-known fact is that Europeans did not come to Indonesia merely to colonize the land.

They were drawn by the spices.

This is brilliantly explained in the masterpiece book REVOLUSI (2024) written by the greatest of all time and remarkable David Van Reybrouck.

Cloves and nutmeg were the most attractive.

Nutmeg, native to the Moluccas (also known as the Spice Islands), was once worth more than its weight in gold during the 17th century.

Cloves, produced in Maluku and Ambon, are known for their distinctive taste and medicinal properties.

There are so many other spices in Indonesia, like :

Black pepper
Etc …

Of these, cloves hold a special place.

Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of cloves, accounting for more than 70% of global production.

Remarkably, Indonesia also consumes 90% of its own clove output.

Beyond culinary and herbal uses, cloves are essential in the manufacture of kretek, an Indonesian cigarette made from a blend of tobacco and cloves.

Kretek cigarettes represent +/- 90% of Indonesia’s total cigarette production, contributing to a USD 30 billion industry—the second-largest cigarette market in the world.

Indonesia ranks 4th in tobacco production, behind China, India, and Brazil.

Last year Netflix released an Indonesian television series called “Gadis Kretek” also known as “Cigarette Girl”.

It was originally a novel, written by Ratih Kumala and published in 2012.

The story is an epic romance in Indonesia in the 1960s.

It highlights Javanese culture, especially the history of the tobacco and kretek industry in its early days in Indonesia.

Here is a short synopsis:

In 2001, terminally ill kretek manufacturer Raja instructs his son Lebas to find his lost love, Jeng Yah. Lebas meets Arum, who discovers that Jeng Yah is her aunt, Dasiyah. Through letters, they unveil Raja and Dasiyah’s love story.

In 1964, Dasiyah, daughter of kretek maker Idroes Moeria, faces obstacles in creating new kretek flavors. Raja, an employee, falls in love with Dasiyah and helps her develop a rose flavor and market it as “Gadis Kretek.” Their success is threatened by political turmoil in 1966.

If you want to immerse yourself in this beautiful story and learn about Javanese culture and the tragic history of Indonesia in 1966, then watch Gadis Kretek on Netflix.

Be prepared for an emotional journey.

No normal human being can remain indifferent to Dian Sastro’s beauty and her acting skills.

At Cintasia, we love love stories. “Cintasia” is a combination of two words: “Cinta,” which means love in Indonesian, and “Asia.” We’ll share more about this in a future article.

Now, let that Netflix jingle play out loud! 😊