05 May 2022
Cinnamon has been creating magic in kitchens for centuries and is one of the most widely used spices in the modern world. However, not all cinnamon is the same and this delicious spice has a mysterious past.
The Secret of Cinnamon
True cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) is not to be confused with its close cousin cassia (Cinnamomum cassia), which is more commonly sold as cinnamon. Both cinnamon and cassia are from the same family but have distinctly different properties. Zeylanicum refers to Sri Lanka, this and Madagascar are where true cinnamon grow and where we get our Fairtrade Organic Cinnamon Sticks and Fairtrade Organic Ground Cinnamon.
The quick way to tell whether you have cinnamon or cassia is to look at the thickness of the bark - fine bark is cinnamon, thick coarse bark is cassia. When ground, the difference between cinnamon and cassia is more difficult to tell. Generally, cassia is a darker, more red colour with a punch of sweetness and spicy flavour, it is good to use in sweet baking. True cinnamon has a more elegant flavour and pungent aroma, it is not as sweet as cassia and has a paler, brown colour, it is particularly good for cooking with meats, curries and for mulling.
If you are lucky enough to see a cinnamon tree growing, pick any part of it - it all tastes of cinnamon, not just the bark!
The Elusive Story of Cinnamon
Cinnamon was first imported to Egypt as early as 2000BC. It was highly prized amongst ancient nations and presented as a gift to monarchs or an offering to deities. Through the middle ages the source of cinnamon remained a secret by the Arab spice merchants who spun long stories about collecting cinnamon from the nests of enormous birds or the pits of giant snakes. However, the demand for this expensive and elusive spice grew across Europe which encouraged explorers to seek out the source of cinnamon for themselves.
Portuguese traders finally found Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and the source of true cinnamon at the end of the fifteenth century and held a monopoly on the spice for over 100 years. Then came the Dutch and finally the British through in taking control of the trade of true cinnamon.
By 1833, the downfall of the true cinnamon monopoly had begun when other countries started growing cinnamon and cassia bark became more acceptable and grew in popularity.
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