The bark of the cinchona tree is a rich source of quinine, which gives tonic water its distinctive bitter taste and a tingling on the tastebuds.
Cinchona, which is also known as the ‘fever tree,’ belongs to the Rubiaceae family. It’s native to Peru and Bolivia, and is highly prized for its bark which is a rich source of the anti-fever agent quinine. Centuries ago, this was the only effective treatment for malaria, and it’s still used to treat colds and flu, relieve pain and kill bacteria.
Although the bark can be harvested when the cinchona tree is six or seven years old, maximum concentrations of quinine occur after 10-12 years. The bark is cut from the tree in strips and dried in the sun, before being ground to a powder. This can then be added to alcohol, vinegar or vegetable glycerin to make a tincture.