Just like with the ‘tea plant’Camellia sinensis which can be cured to produce green tea, black tea, white tea, oolong, etc. the leaves of the kratom tree can be cured to produce different types of kratom.
By drying the leaves with varying levels of direct/indirect sunlight for varying amounts of time kratom farmers are able to produce different colors of kratom powder from bright green to deep red. Some farmers even ferment the leaves to produce the darkest color of kratom known as ‘bentuangie’.
If kratom leaves are roasted in direct sun for longer periods of time they turn dark red/brown, leaves cured for less time or with indirect sunlight retain their green color and fresh flavor. Each kratom farmer in Borneo has carefully developed their own formula for curing leaves.
Not only does the curing process change the color and flavor of the resulting powder but it also influences the balance of alkaloids within the kratom. While the process has not yet been fully analyzed, through the curing of the leaves the 40+ indole alkaloids within the leaf that are responsible for its effects are oxidized and transformed through varying levels of exposure to heat and sunlight.
While some kratom farmers produce only one type of kratom, most commonly green or ‘super green’ (a brighter green version) some farmers have spent years perfecting their curing techniques and can be quite secretive with how they make a particular variety.
One of our favorite photos below illustrates how a single harvest of kratom leaves can be transformed into different products all with their own lovely and unique aroma, taste and effects.
But so, what about common names such as ’maeng da’, ‘horned’, ‘elephant’, ‘red vein’, ‘green vein’, ‘Bali’, ‘Malay’ etc?
First of all, the commonly used label of ‘maeng da’ is simply a Thai slang expression meaning ‘top shelf’ or ‘high quality’, so any kratom that is regarded as especially good quality could be called ‘maeng-da’. It does not indicate any special genetic variation in the plant. At Jaya, we use the term for our Central Borneo kratom in recognition of the dreamy conditions that this kratom grows in.
Then, there is ’horned’ kratom. Some leaves of some kratom trees develop a horned appearance as depicted below. While this is a beautiful phenomenon, this does not make it a unique variety of kratom. No farmers we have met actually separates out these horned leaves from the rest of the leaves on their plantation, and after visiting hundreds of kratom fields, we are yet to witness a plot of land with only horned leaves. It’s simply a natural phenomenon that some leaves occasionally display.
Next, the term ‘elephant’ as our major Indonesian exporter friend told us laughing as we toured his farm, is completely made up. When a customer specifically demands ‘elephant kratom’ he said jokingly he simply takes a photo of a particularly large leaf and then sends whatever is next to be shipped out of the warehouse.
If you ask a typical Bornean farmer about what is growing in their field they will simply respond kratom- never is there any indication of a particular ‘maeng da’, ‘elephant’ or ‘horned’ species.
This brings us to regional distinctions such as the ubiquitous Thai, Malay and Bali kratom. While kratom is very popular in Thailand and Malaysia, considering that kratom cannot be legally exported from these countries, it is doubtful that these names are ever anything more than arbitrary branding. As to Bali kratom, we lived on the island for two years and never once heard of kratom growing there in any commercially viable quantities, nor is kratom native to this island like it is in Borneo. Likely, Bali has been historically chosen for branding purposes as it is internationally the most well known of Indonesia’s 17,000+ islands.
So if the majority of kratom types are simply creative names with nothing to do with where the kratom actually comes from or its particular genetic make up then we are left with the vein distinction…Unfortunately this too is not quite right.
Red vein, green vein and white vein leaves all appear in nature but do not denote a particular variety of kratom with any specific effects. In fact most kratom trees display a mix of red/white/green colored veins and no farmer in their right mind is taking the time to separate them after picking. It would simply be an impossible and pointless task when producing hundreds of kilos of product.
Sometimes trees will display only white vein or red vein, but this is generally subject to change as the leaves mature or it is due to the particular soil mineral content of the area and seasonal/climatic conditions.
Essentially, there is a lot of crafty naming of kratom, and while in itself it is not harmful, we believe in transparency. That’s why we choose to name our kratom based on it’s geographical region, its curing method and it’s growing practices. Despite there only being one known species of kratom tree, our investigations in Borneo clearly demonstrated to us that different growing conditions (soil composition, climatic variations, altitude, proximity to rivers and farmer’s techniques) present varying characteristics in the end result.
For new customers we recommend the sample pack to give you the chance to taste for yourself the different regions of Borneo and find your vibe of choice.