The tree grows up to 20 feet (6 metres) tall, with a straight trunk, 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) wide. It has glossy green leaves 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 cm) long, 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) wide. When young, the leaves smell a bit like tobacco.
The bark on the tree is a smooth, yellowish grey. It comes off in pieces 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12 1/2 cm) long, an inch (2 1/2 cm) wide, and 1/12 of an inch thick. It has an unpleasant smell.
The taste compound in the bark is called “Angosturin.” It’s colourless, and dissolves in water easily.
Angostura Bark is used in Fee’s Old Fashioned Aromatic Bitters, and probably also in Angostura Bitters, though we may never know, as the bottles don’t reveal the exact ingredients. Some sources feel that Angostura Bitters do not in fact contain Angostura Bark. Angostura Bitters do contain an “aromatic bark”, but they won’t say what it is.
Angostura Bark is also used in the Australian soft drink Bundaberg Lemon, Lime & Bitters.
There’s a tree called the “false Angostura” (aka Nux Vomica Tree), whose leaves won’t have the tobacco smell, and whose bark won’t have the unpleasant smell, but it’s actually dangerous to consume.
Named after the port city of Angostura, Venezuela, called “Bolívar City” since 1846.