Kretek, Indonesian clove cigarettes

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Kretek are cigarettes with cloves typical of Indonesia, a place where they are so widespread that they have supplanted any competitor

Smoking is bad

Before starting, it is essential to clarify that the Middle East and the Surrounding Area acts as a source of historical-cultural information and does not intend in any way to encourage the consumption of tobacco and / or other substances present in the article or “smoking“, a practice that in each case leads to health risks. I therefore invite you to take this text only as a mere exposition of an extremely present and characteristic element of the culture of Indonesian popular culture. Enjoy the reading.

Kretek, Indonesian clove cigarettes

According to tradition, the origins of kretek date back to 1880, the year in which Hadji Djamhari, to reduce his asthma, decided to add cloves to hand-rolled tobacco, changing their taste forever and in a very short time they became a product that was always most widespread throughout Indonesia. Not surprisingly, the first company specialized in its production was founded in 1906, but the leap in quality will take place in the 1930s, when large-scale commercial productions began. popular and rural of Indonesia and also to this the choice of ingredients typical of those places would have been due. The farmers could not always afford imported materials and this facilitated the creation of artisanal cigarettes, often also rich in many other spices such as nutmeg and cumin, all wrapped in a banana leaf. With the first commercializations the product began to take its own shape, selecting only tobacco and cloves; the latter tend to occupy 1/3 of the mixture.


With the birth of today’s Indonesia, kretek were seen as a local rival of the classic cigarettes and for this reason their sale was incredibly encouraged, so much so that still today about 90% of Indonesians prefer them to any other; not surprisingly, in Indonesia alone there are at least 6 large kretek producers. Since 2009 it has been prohibited for sale in the United States but, according to scientists, the latter would have neither particular merits nor particular effects compared to classic cigarettes. The name is onomatopoeic and derives from the characteristic sound that cloves make when burned.

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