Thursday, 5 January 2017


“In Old Havana, the names of the streets before the revolution provided a glimpse into the city's state of mind. You might have known someone who lived on the corner of Soul and Bitterness, Solitude and Hope, or Light and Avocado.” - Brin-JonathanButler

Angostura trifoliata or Galipea cusparia, known as angostura, cuspa, galipea or chuspa, is a species of medicinal plant, a tree of the Rutaceae family originating in South America, originally from Venezuela. Its bark is used for its bitter principles.

This plant was known in Spain and Europe by various botanists in the post-colonial period, the greatest spread being from the Catalan Capuchins of Angostura (Orinoco-Caroní), who were exporting the bark to their sister convents in Spain. When Humboldt and Bonpland visited these missions in the early 1800s, the Capuchins identified the tree from which angostura bark was obtained. Humboldt recommended naming the plant to honour his friend Bonpland (hence the synonym Bonplandia trifoliata). 

Angostura trifoliata is a tree about 15 to 25 m high with tripartite leaves up to 60 cm long, on long petioles, possessing an unpleasant, pungent odour. The leaves are ovo-lanceolate, sessile, pointed and have white spots on the stem. The flowers appear in long axillary clusters, white and with plumes hairy on the outside. The bark is brownish-gray. The angostura plant has been studied for its antibiotic potential and cytotoxic activity. The bark is the main source of these medicinal properties. Natives make use of the bark by grinding it and spraying the powder in the water, which is used to stun the fish, which are then collected.

The bark is used in various preparations as a bitter tonic, an aromatic flavouring, a respiratory stimulant, a febrifuge and a carminative. In higher doses it is emetic and laxative. In natural medicine it is used in the treatment of chronic gastritis, dyspepsia, lack of appetite, gastric hypoacidity.

Although it shares its name with Angostura Bitters, which was named in honour of the city of Angostura, Venezuela and does not contain angostura bark. The exact formula of Angostura bitters is a closely guarded secret, with only five people knowing the whole recipe. It is a concentrated bitters, or botanically infused alcoholic mixture, made of water, 44.7% ethanol, gentian, herbs and spices.

Abbot’s Bitters is a brand of aromatic/medicinal bitters popular in the 1920s and produced up until the mid-1950s. It has been resurrected along with a reproduction of the label and what is thought to be a close recreation by the team at Tempus Fugit Spirits Company.

In cocktails the use of very small quantities of bitters is much appreciated, and they introduce a complexity of flavour that enhances the taste of characteristic drinks, such as the Manhattan or pink gin.

This post is part of the  Floral Friday meme,
and also part of the Food Friday meme.

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