nutmeg powder

Discover the Best Spices from the Spice Islands

1 month ago Indonesia

The Maluku Islands, also known as the Spice Islands, were at the heart of the world’s spice trade during the 15th century, producing exotic spice varieties that were in demand for their culinary and medicinal uses. 


Today, Indonesia remains a leading spice producer, said to have cultivated half of the world’s spice varieties. The archipelago’s rich, fertile soil and tropical climate are ideal for growing cloves, nutmeg, mace, and fiery pepper varieties. Discover the best of these spices and how they contribute to different aspects of life in the region.



nutmeg and mace


The Banda Islands, part of the larger Maluku Islands group, were the earliest cultivators of nutmeg and provided the world’s primary source of the revered spice until the mid-19th century. This warm, fragrant spice, used in savory and sweet dishes, and for medicinal purposes, is grown from the seed of nutmeg, or Myristica Fragrans, a perennial tree native to the islands. Indonesia is still one of the world’s largest global producers and exporters of nutmeg. 



nutmeg and mace


Mace is the sister spice of nutmeg, derived from the waxy crimson outer covering, or aril, of the nutmeg seed. Mace has a similar flavor and aroma to nutmeg but is milder and more delicate, with a rusty brown color when dried. Grown in the Banda Islands and North Sulawesi, this nutty spice is traditionally ground up and used in savory dishes like baked fish, curries and stews and in pickling and preserving. Contrary to popular belief, there is no connection to ‘mace’ spray, which is made from capsicum! 





Indonesian cloves are native to the Spice Islands – primarily grown on the islands of Ternate and Tidore. These high-quality cloves boast an intense spicy flavor and strong perfume – a staple in traditional Indonesian cuisine. Cloves are also used in the pungent and popular Kretek cigarettes that are favored by locals. Derived from the aromatic flower buds of S. aromaticum, a native tree that can grow up to 12 meters high, cloves are harvested in the dry season of June-August and are used widely throughout the world in preserving, marinades and spice blends. 





Indonesia’s thriving pepper industries are mostly located in Lampung, Bangka, Kalimantan and Sulawesi. Indonesia’s peppers come in a variety of peppery, lemony and spicy flavors that are popular around the globe. 


Batak pepper


Batak or Andaliman pepper has been coined the ‘Indonesian Lemon Pepper’ for its citrus zing and warm, peppery flavor. Grown in the North Sumatran highlands, the Andaliman plant has large, noxious thorns that farmers must contend with to harvest the spice. Commonly used in sambals and for spicing up seafood and poultry, Batak pepper has a slightly numbing mouthfeel similar to the Chinese Sichuan pepper. It’s also used as a food preservative and in traditional medicine. 


Cubeb pepper

cubeb pepper


Cubeb pepper is also known as ‘tailed pepper’, because of the stalk that remains on the dried berry or ‘Java pepper’ because it’s grown on the Island of Java. Harvested from the berries of the Piper Cubeba plant, Cubeb has a mild, peppery flavor, with hints of nutmeg and allspice. It can be ground with nutmeg, cloves and ginger to create a four-spice blend, or used to season game, soups and stews. It’s also well-known as a medicinal plant for ailments ranging from asthma to indigestion. 


Long pepper


A relative of white and black pepper, the long pepper or Java long pepper has an unusual shape that resembles a tiny, slender pinecone. Indigenous to Indonesia, it comes from a vine pepper tree called Piper Longum and has an earthy, sweet, spicy flavor that marries well with galangal and turmeric in traditional Indonesian curries and soups. Highly sought after by merchants during the Spice Trading era, long pepper is also used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat parasites and other health issues.


Black pepper

black peppercorns


Home to approximately 29,000 black pepper farmers, Lampung Province in Southern Sumatra is the epicenter of Indonesia’s black pepper industry. Lampung’s fertile volcanic soil, high annual rainfall and tropical climate provide the ideal environment for cultivating black pepper vines. Known for its woody flavor, fiery afterburn and citrus scent, Lumpung peppercorns are smaller than regular black peppercorns, but are hotter and sharper in flavor. They’re often used to season red meats, risottos, pastas and grilled fish. 


White pepper

white pepper


Muntok white pepper, originating from Indonesia’s Bangka Island in the Sumatra archipelago, is one of the most popular white peppers in Europe for its distinct flavor and aroma. To reveal their lighter side, Muntok peppercorns are soaked or run under water until the husk of the black, ripe berry dislodges and the pale white kernel is left behind for processing. It’s commonly used in Asian cuisine for hot and sour soups, and in Europe for potato dishes and creamy white sauces. 


Cassia cinnamon

cassia cinnamon


Cassia cinnamon is harvested from the dried inner bark of the Cinnamomum cassia tree and has long been popular for its aromatic and spicy flavor. A feature of Indonesian cuisine for centuries, this reddish-brown spice is used in both sweet and savory dishes and is also valued for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  


Explore the Spice Islands with Aqua Expeditions 

Aqua Expeditions is wild about food and brings the very best of local flavors to our sailing adventures in East Indonesia. Award-winning Australian Chef Benjamin Cross will join our 10-17 August 2024 expedition of the Ambon and Spice Islands, hosting a dining experience that explores all that the Spice Islands has to offer.  


slow roasted beef rib rendang with fried shallots


Watch firsthand the culinary magic that goes into Aqua Blu’s exquisite dishes, including Chef Cross’ succulent 48-hour beef short rib rendang, Balinese suckling pig, laced with Indonesia’s famed spices, organic Javanese prawns marinated in fragrant oil and lime, and handline-caught fish grilled with fiery chili sambal. Explore local produce on a customized market tour, take a small, hands-on cooking class or kitchen tour with Chef Cross, or sit down for an interactive Q&A on the emerging food scene in Indonesia and Bali.  


Chef Cross has also curated an exclusive vegan menu for Aqua Blu, with flavor-packed dishes created with organic, sustainable ingredients, incorporating a variety of Indonesia’s historic spices.


Contact our expedition consultants now to take the gastronomic voyage of a lifetime in East Indonesia aboard Aqua Blu.