Clove Cigarette Unleashed: From Indonesia to the World

Clove Cigarette


Clove cigarette, as the name says, packs a punch with a blend of tobacco and clove spice. That creates a sensory journey like no other and gives smoking a new meaning altogether. From the narrow streets of Indonesia to the expansive smoking lounges across the globe, clove cigarettes have a story to tell. Let’s be all ears to it. 

What is a Clove Cigarette?

Simply put, a cigarette made of tobacco and a grounded clove and clove oil blend qualifies to be a clove cigarette. It can also contain cumin, cinnamon, and nutmeg to create a one-of-a-kind aromatic smoking experience. Often referred to as a Kretek, the clove cigarettes originate from Indonesia, home to the clove tree (Syzygium aromaticum).


Component Percentage
Tobacco 60% to 80%
Ground Clove Buds & Clove Oil 20% to 40%
Additional Spices (optional) Cumin, Cinnamon, Nutmeg


Dimensions Longer and slimmer than regular cigarettes. Length may vary
Color Typically brown or tan, with variations based on the inclusion of cloves and other spices
Filters Some have filters, while others may feature a unique cork-style tip or remain unfiltered


Thickness The clove content leads to a thicker and more intense smoke
Texture Usually smoother than traditional cigarettes, less harsh & easier to inhale
Residue May leave a lingering aroma on clothing and surroundings after smoking

Flavor & Taste:

Spicy Undertones Clove buds and oil make for spiciness and a warm and distinctive undertone.
Sweet Notes Carry a subtle sweetness to provide a contrast to the bold tobacco flavor
Complexity A blend of tobacco, cloves, and spices results in a layered and complex flavor profile
Aroma A rich aroma for a tingling sensation and an olfactory delight

Other Traits:

Price Clove cigarette price is more than regular ones due to unique ingredients & manufacturing process
Health Effects Just as addictive and harmful as regular tobacco cigarettes
Regulations Banned in the US and much of Europe due to high youth appeal and lack of health warnings
Target Customers Marketed to youngsters due to their sweet taste disguising the effects of smoking
Trivia The name, kretek, is derived from the sound of burning cloves

Clove Cigarette: The Magic of Cloves

Clove has been a flavor enhancer and a trusted ally in traditional medicine for ages. Besides jazzing up your food, it comes to the rescue against oral issues, tummy troubles, and even that stubborn cough. Plus, it can induce uterine contractions and calm the nerves. Its essential oil isn’t just for fragrance but can also hedge against free radicals.

Therapeutic Uses Oral diseases, dental complaints, nausea, vomiting, cough, diarrhea, dyspepsia, flatulence, stomach distension, pain relief, gastrointestinal spasm,  uterine contractions, nerve stimulation
Folk Medicine Uses Diuretic, odontalgic, stomachic, tonicardiac, a condiment with carminative and stimulant effects
Essential Oil Benefits Fragrance, flavor agent, dietary antioxidant

Clove Cigarette: History

Kreteks have a long evolution history. Originating as traditional medicinal use to becoming a symbol of nationalism and a popular cigarette category globally, kreteks have come of age. Here’s the timeline. 


A native of Kudus, Haji Djamhari, created hand-rolled cigarettes with clove oil, dried buds, and tree sap to alleviate his chest pains. Word spread as the product became available in pharmacies as “clove cigarettes” with medicinal claims.


Kudus resident Nitisemito launched the first proprietary kretek brand “Bal Tiga” and kickstarted commercial production and marketing of clove cigarettes in Indonesia.


Commercial manufacturing of branded kreteks began on a wider scale across Indonesia. Nitisemito enjoyed success with marketing innovations like embossed packs.


Kreteks became a symbol of indigenous identity against “white cigarettes” during Indonesia’s early independence era.

Mid 1980s:

Machine-produced kretek volumes surpassed hand-rolled ones as manufacturing technology evolved.

Late 1990s:

Indonesia’s massive kretek industry included 500 manufacturers and employed around 10 million people, becoming a major income source.


Kreteks faced a ban in the United States, leading to “kretek cigars” with similar attributes being marketed instead to bypass regulation.

Clove Cigarette: Types 

Over the years, kretek cigarettes have thrown up several variants to support different tastes. Here’s your rundown on the most prominent of them. 

1. Klobot Kretek Cigarette:

Origins  It’s the authentic kretek wrapped in klobot (dried corn husk) 
Uniqueness Hand-rolled and now rare, still found in rural East Java
Preference Particularly popular among senior citizens

The initial kreteks were Klobot kretek. Hand-rolled with dried corn husk, Klobot kretek is the authentic kretek and is increasingly rare now. You have to travel into the heart of rural East Java, where the older folks can be seen enjoying this classic smoke.

2. Hand-Rolled Kretek Cigarette:

Origins Introduced in 1913, it was the first mass-produced kretek for commercial use.
Uniqueness Rolled by hand, a practice that continued until 1970 when regulations mandated desks and chairs for factory workers.
Timelessness The hand-rolled variant, lacking a filter, remains a favored choice

Picture this: workers, seated on the floor, meticulously rolling each piece by hand. These were the hand-rolled kreteks for you. These paper-wrapped cigarettes set the ball rolling for mass-produced kretek for commercial use until 1970 when regulations mandated desks and chairs for workers. Even today, the charm of these filterless cigarettes makes them a popular choice.

3. Machine-Rolled Kretek Cigarette:

Origins Launched in 1974, marking a significant chapter in Kretek’s history
Uniqueness Equipped with a filter, it resembles regular cigarettes in shape, size, and color
Popularity A booming product that transformed the kretek industry landscape

Debuting in 1974, the machine-rolled Kretek cigarette changed everything for the Kretek industry. With a filter in tow, these kreteks were similar in shape, size, and color, just like the regular cigarettes. Think of them as the standard Kretek cigarette, as we know them today.

4. Dual Clove Cigarette:

Composition It comes in two halves – one with regular tobacco filler and the other with a blend of clove powder and tobacco
Visual Cue The clove-infused section boasts a darker or reddish hue, creating a visual contrast
Taste As you take a drag, the journey begins with the familiar taste of tobacco, gradually transitioning to the exotic notes of clove in the middle section

Call it the most evolved form of the clove cigarette. Imagine a smoke that unfolds like a story, with not one but two distinct chapters. True to their name, they offer you two flavors in a single stick. One-half of the cigarette carries regular tobacco, while the other half contains a blend of clove powder and tobacco. This creates a visually distinctive two-toned cigarette, with the clove section appearing darker or reddish. You initially enjoy the tobacco flavor, which gradually gives way to clove flavor.

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Clove Cigarette: Popularity

While kretek cigarettes dominate smoking preferences in Indonesia, they are gaining traction globally. As of 2020, they constitute 1.8% of the cigarette market, with an estimated 25 million smokers outside Indonesia. 

Kreteks Popularity: Indonesia

Statistic Data
Tobacco Usage in Indonesia (2018) 34% of Indonesians aged 15+ used tobacco 
Clove-Mixed Tobacco Smokers (2014)   73% of tobacco smokers in Indonesia
Preference for Kreteks in Indonesia  About 90% of smokers prefer kreteks

Kreteks Popularity: Globally

Global Market Share Approximately 1.8%
Global Kretek Smokers  Estimated 25 million people
Popular Countries Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, Australia, Netherlands, Germany, United States

Clove Cigarette: Legal Status:

In the 2000s, kreteks found themselves in a legal and political tug-of-war. A proposed 2009 U.S. Senate bill wanted to ban all cigarette flavors, save for menthol ones. Why? Well, some argued it was to protect the big tobacco players from a little too much competition. Yet, despite the heated debate, several U.S. states went ahead to ban clove cigarettes.  

Fast forward to 2009, and the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act decided that flavored cigarettes, including kreteks, had to go. Even though menthol cigarettes got a pass, kreteks were left out in the cold, no longer legal in the U.S. starting September 2009. However, some tried to sell them as “kretek cigars” to dodge the regulations.

Indonesia wasn’t too thrilled about it. In 2010, they took the matter to the World Trade Organization, arguing that the ban unfairly targeted kreteks while letting menthol cigarettes, mostly made by U.S. companies, off the hook. Their point? Menthol had a 43% share of the U.S. youth market, while Kreteks had less than 1%, making the ban seem a bit lopsided. In 2012, the WTO bought into the argument and ruled in Indonesia’s favor

But here’s the kicker: it’s still a bit fuzzy how this ruling plays out in the real world of U.S. legislation. So, as of now, kreteks are still navigating some pretty tough hurdles to make their way into American hands.

Clove Cigarette: “Benefits” and Concerns

A clove cigarette is a tango of flavors, but a deadly one.

Perceived Benefits:

More on health concerns later, but first the “benefits.”

1. Eugenol Magic:

Cloves boast eugenol, a natural analgesic that can help relieve pain. It’s a popular belief that puffing on clove cigarettes could bring a brief respite from pesky toothaches or irritating sore throats.

2. Antioxidant Arsenal:

Cloves pack a punch with antioxidants, compounds that combat oxidative stress and might hedge the body against the wear and tear caused by oxidative stress.

Note that, these are “perceived benefits,” not backed by scientific evidence.  


Now, before you light up a clove cigarette in anticipation of potential benefits, a reality check is due. Here’s what research tells us. 

1. More Tar & CO:

As per the Nicotine & Tobacco Research report (2021), the clove cigarette has a thing for packing more tar and carbon monoxide than regular smoke. That exposes you to an increased risk of cancer and other deadly conditions.

2. Undisclosed Ingredients:

The clove cigarette brands don’t spill the beans on what’s in them. The Toxicology Research reports the presence of clindamycin (an antibiotic) and octodrine (an amphetaminic stimulant) in Kretek cigarettes. These unexpected guests make kretek cigarettes in India and elsewhere more dangerous than the regular ones.

3. Health Issues Galore:

The PubMed Central report (2021) equates the damaging effects of clove cigarettes to the regular ones. It directly linked Kreteks to asthma, oral diseases, heart issues, and even heart attacks.

Clove Cigarette: Manufacturing Process

Special cigarettes involve a special manufacturing process. Specifications might vary from one brand to the other, but here are some common elements in the process. 

Production Step


Tobacco Blending It all kicks off with blending quality tobacco leaves to achieve the desired flavor profile
Clove Mixture The manufacturer mixes ground clove buds and clove oil and sometimes throws in other spices to spice things up
Rolling The blended mixture is meticulously rolled into cigarette paper to ensure an even distribution of tobacco and spices
Drying Clove Cigarette undergo a drying process to eliminate the excess moisture, crucial for maintaining proper consistency
Packaging Finally, it’s time to pack it up for distribution

How to Craft a Clove Cigarette at Home?

Yes, it is possible to handcraft a clove cigarette at home in a few simple steps.  


Looseleaf tobacco Whole cloves Clove to tobacco ratio: Varies from 1:3 to 2:3


1 Cut cloves into petal balls and leftover stem pieces with a sharp knife
2 Leave the petal section largely intact, or break it into large chunks
3 Powder the leftover stem using a mortar/pestle or grinder
4 Mix tobacco, intact petal pieces, and powder as per the chosen ratio
5 Let the liquid absorb for 1-3 hours then dry on a baking sheet on low heat
6 Stir periodically while drying until crisp
7 Use a quality injector machine and tubes to roll cured tobacco-clove blend into cigarettes


  • Dip filters in a sweet solution for extra sweetness
  • Avoid artificial flavors to keep the experience authentic
  • Add liquid extract (coffee, tea, etc) to flavor the tobacco mix

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Clove Cigarette Takeaways: 

A clove cigarette stands out for its unique blend of tobacco and aromatic spices. The distinct taste, coupled with innovative features like dual flavors, make the Kretek cigarette a go-to option if you are keen to elevate your smoking experience. However, the next time you light up; take a moment to rethink your decision. Regular cigarettes, herbal cigarettes, organic cigarettes, kretek cigarettes, or anything else sold to you as cigarettes – all of them are a health risk. It’s not easy to give up smoking but you have to. Remember, life is more precious than your cravings.

Clove Cigarette: FAQs:

1. What is a clove cigarette? 

A clove cigarette, kretek, or kretek cigarette, is a cigarette with a blend of tobacco, grounded cloves, and clove oil. Some might contain cumin, cinnamon, and nutmeg for a more complex flavor profile. 

2. Are clove cigarettes banned anywhere?

Yes, clove cigarette faces a ban in the US and much of Europe. It’s essential to be aware of local tobacco laws and restrictions.

3. Are clove cigarettes and herbal cigarettes the same?

No, clove cigarettes and herbal cigarettes are two different things. Clove cigarettes still contain tobacco and can cause addiction and health issues like regular cigarettes. Herbal cigarettes, on the other hand, mimic smoking with plants and botanical mixes, without tobacco. Smokers often use herbal cigarettes as a nonsmoking aid.

4. Are clove cigarettes addictive?

Like traditional cigarettes, clove cigarettes contain nicotine, which is an addictive substance. Smoking any form of tobacco product can lead to nicotine dependence.

5. Is Clove cigarette safe? 

No. Kretek cigarettes in India and elsewhere are equally or more dangerous than regular cigarettes, causing cancers, heart issues, respiratory problems, and other deadly conditions.

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Feature Image Courtesy: Azerbaijan stockers on Freepik