Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

cudbear also called archil or orchil, a dye extracted from various lichens, notably Rocella tinctoria, which grow around the Mediterranean. It has for long been used as a food colouring, and gives a purple red or clear red in most foods.

The lichen is first soaked in water and treated with ammonia to give a blue liquid. This is heated to make the ammonia evaporate, leaving a strong, concentrated red colour.
Cudbear was used illicitly, in former times, to deepen the colour of red wine. It is still used in bottled sauces and bitters.