Posted in Kafevend Blog
We know that cloves have been used by humans for their strong flavour for millenia, thanks to the recovery of a ceramic vessel in Syria. The vessel and its contents, which included cloves, were dated back to around 1721 BCE. Cloves have been used in medicine for some time too, particularly in Chinese remedies. They also hit upon its use as a breath freshener, with one Chinese ruler stipulating that anyone wishing to address him must chew a clove or two- not a fan of halitosis, evidently.
Cloves are the closed, dried flowerbuds of the syszygium aromaticum, a type of evergreen tree. Originally the trees grew throughout the Maluku Islands, also known as the Spice Islands. They are also now grown in countries like India, Sri Lanka and Madagascar. The Dutch East India Company, following their success in gaining a monopoly over nutmeg and mace grown on the Banda Islands within the archipelago, tried to control the clove market as well, but failed due to their more widespread growth.
Cloves are often used in cooking, but their strength means that only a few are needed to impart the flavouring into the food. Methods involve grinding them up and adding the powder, to simply placing a few whole cloves in with the dish. Just be sure to take them back out again, or you'll be in for a surprise when you bite down on one. The strong aroma and flavour found in cloves is due to the presence of large amounts of the oily chemical compound eugenol. Whilst it is also found in spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, eugenol can make up to 90% of the oil found in cloves.
And yes, you can make clove tea.