It has been an interesting journey, establishing such wonderful flavours. The plan from the start was to use ingredients which are unusual and organic as far as physically possible.
They may be unusual flavours, but that is what makes the flavours exciting!
Some might not be familiar with all of our ingredients, so we thought it might be worth just giving a bit of background on a few of them.
Our Cinchona bark comes from Equador, which is next door to where it all started, in Peru. The Cinchona is a flowering tree, native to the Andean forests of western South America. Most other tonics use quinine extract, which is why the tonics are clear ‘white’. We use the bark straight from the tree, which is why our tonics have a distinctive amber colour. Many people also use powdered bark, which is cheaper, because you can get more quinine out of the bark, but we use only the chipped bark, to give a lovely, complex flavour which works so well and so smoothly. See ‘Jeffrey and the Countess’ for more info.
Are the buds from roses which appear on many varieties of roses after the flower has gone. It has a warm, rounded flavour, and was the staple of many a baby boomer child in rosehip syrup, which also usually included some alcohol, so it might not have been just the syrup which kept baby quiet.
People often ask what yarrow is, when they see this on the label. It is actually a very common herb in the UK. Another name for it here is woundwort, and Native Americans actually used yarrow for wounds, infections and bleeding. Animal studies have also shown support for the use of yarrow in cleansing wounds and controlling the bleeding of wounds, cuts and abrasions.
Some say yarrow is helpful for fertility and it has been used traditionally by midwives to stop haemorrhage during miscarriage, or after childbirth. There are differing views, though, so it might be best not to drink more than a whole bottle of syrup at one go.
The ‘Original recipe’ doesn’t actually say that this is in the recipe, but it is pretty obvious when you taste it that it has elements of ‘Christmassy spice’. Much of it is with the Cassia, which is from the cinnamon family. We get a lot of people saying 'oh, I can taste the ginger'. Nope, no ginger. We think it's the association of flavours so you expect it to be there.
A very common tree, the elder (or Sambucus) has flowers which hang in creamy bunches in the summer. The flowers have a very delicate and distinctive scent, which you see in many tonic varieties. From long and bitter experience, we have found it very difficult to capture the best aroma of the elderflower, so this is the only flavour we resort to someone else capturing for us. It is all about flavour, after all!
In our travels in the far east, we came across many spices and fruits which are not common in Europe. The Calamansi in the Philippines is a wonderful distinctive citrus, for instance, while the Durian is more pungent than anything we have ever experienced, and not for the faint-hearted. But Galangal is a spice which is very often used in Thai cooking, and it is becoming much more popular and available in the UK. It is a rhizome, like ginger, which means that you eat the roots which shoot out and create new plants, but it does have a particular warm citrus flavour which is quite different from ginger, though people often mistake them.