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Tonic Water – DIY Foodism

For some reason I have become more and more interested in consuming less-processed foods and beverages. Perhaps it is five years of living in Northern Thailand where very fresh and local food is actually less expensive and widely available. In addition, there are some kinds of foods which have a lot of interesting characteristics, but the packaged, mass-produced versions have rendered them virtually worthless.

Cacao or Raw Cocoa Powder

This stuff is great. I imported it from the US and it in turn comes from Peru. There are two things I do with this: hot chocolate and cacao (cocoa) pancakes.

Cocoa Pancakes

Two teaspoons go into each pancake batter (also made from scratch with honey), making it a mocha-colored creation and the cocoa flavor is present but without overwhelming sweetness. We tend to put a lemon curd on the pancakes (which I will be attempting to make from scratch next month).

Authentic Hot Cocoa

For hot chocolate, 300ml of milk, tablespoon of honey, tablespoon of raw cacao, stir over low flame for five minutes. Poor into cup so the dregs stay in the pan.

Cinchona Bark or Raw Quinine

The ingredient in Tonic water that makes it effective (or used to before modern recipes and packaging) is quinine from the bark of the cinchona tree. This tree was first discovered in South America but it has been exported and planted in many places elsewhere including Indonesia (and Thailand). I imported from a Canadian company which sourced the bark from Mexico. Eventually I hope to have some of this growing in Thailand for local sourcing.

Tonic Recipe

Tonic has a variety of recipes but the main elements are cinchona bark, some kind of citrus, some kind of sweetener, and possibly other spices. My recipe goes like this (to produce 300ml): - 1/8 cup (1/2 oz) cinchona bark - powdered - 1/2 cup chopped lemongrass - 2 juiced lemons - 2 juiced oranges - 1/4 cup honey - 4 allspice berries - powdered Combine everything except honey, simmer for 30 minutes on low heat, add honey, simmer for 15 minutes. Pour into container, let cool to room temperature, then filter through Thai coffee/tea sock.

Other Recipes for Tonic

I learned a lot from a variety of online sources, including a NyTimes recipe and a warning on too much quinine (it can be toxic).

DIY Foodism

There are several advantages to this kind of DIY Foodism, including removing money from the global companies, stop consuming food and beverages which are quite unhealthy, control the flavor of what you prepare by starting from the basic component ingredients. Also it is kind of fun to learn about how all this works and experiment in the kitchen. Next up I want to create the perfect cross between original Sriracha chili sauce (the Thai variety, not the American/Vietnamese kind) and tomato catsup. The goal is to create something that will go equally well on eggs and sausage as on hamburger and french fries. I'll start with this recipe...

2 thoughts on “Tonic Water – DIY Foodism

  1. Interesting.

    I am trying to source cichona bark in Thailand, did you manage to find a source? I would be interesting in planting some trees on our farm in Chiang mai so that we can have our own siurce for making tonic water. Let me know if you have any useful information.

    Thank you


    1. Hi Gary, Sorry, I don’t know of any Thai sources though there is some research on Chichona at certain universities in Thailand (I don’t have any sources, try Google and Google Scholar). For the bark itself I use eBay and Amazon. Let me know if you find another source or do the planting. A guy on Koh Samui contacted me about a years ago and I sent him a sample of the bark I have. Send me an email with your mailing address if you would like a sample as well.

      All the best.

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