Photo: Pick your poison.

Museum Kretek Kudus

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Permeating the air in Indonesia, you may have caught the whiff of a sweet spicy aroma proceeded by a crackling sound, the hallmarks of the onomatopoetic named kretek, clove cigarettes, ubiquitously smoked all over the country.

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These popular smokes were reportedly first produced in Kudus, 42 kilometres southeast of Jepara, and about 70 kilometres northeast of Semarang, in the late 19th century. Haji Jamhari, suffering from asthma, first found relief by rubbing clove oil on his chest but later tried another way to administer the remedy by mixing the cloves with tobacco wrapped in corn husks and smoking them. Cured of his suffering, the news of his medical treatment soon spread and a market for the clove cigarets was born.

Roll them up by hand. Photo taken in or around Museum Kretek Kudus, Jepara, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Roll them up by hand. Photo: Sally Arnold

Local businessman Nitisemito began producing the product commercially along with a huge marketing campaign, the popularity of kreteks spread throughout the country which lead him to become the wealthiest Javanese businessman in pre-independence Indonesia, at one time employing more than 15,000 workers at his Kudus factory. Other businesses followed suite and Kudus became known as the centre of kretek production in ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 400 words.)

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