Cinnamon : The history – The Invasion – The Revelation

Posted on Saturday, February 5th, 2022

Cinnamomum verum called the “Cinnamon”:

Sri Lanka, as it is currently known, has an unblemished, illustrious ancient history in terms of culture and heritage, dating back to almost 3000 years. The island nation was likened unto a gorgeous princess with her fascinating beauty and glamour, embraced with lavish and lush greenery, fertile soil, timely monsoon rains, and the appropriately held diverse climate. Nature adorned this comely princess, Sri Lanka, with the jewels of varieties of spices that were well-known for their nativity then. Cinnamon was one of those primitive spices that established itself as the “true cinnamon”.

As how the nation was known for its diversity, Sri Lanka also had diverse names called by the rulers and traders at various points – Thambapanni by king Vijay in 543 BC, Taprobane by the ancient Greek geographers, Serendib by the Persians and Arabs, to name a few.  According to Hebrew scrolls and chronicles, Solomon, the world’s wealthiest monarch at that time, obtained sandalwood, pepper, ivory, pearls, diamonds, and other valuables from an island in the east having deployed his naval fleet from Jerusalem. This included cinnamon, which was utilized as the main ingredient in incenses during the consecration of the Holy Temple.  At the time, no other island in the east had ever been known to be as prosperous as ancient Sri Lanka. Formerly known as Thambappani, Sri Lanka was unquestionably an important marine hub for commerce, as evidenced by historic artifacts and as a proven reality even now.

Moreover, according to the Bible, king Solomon employed cinnamon, aloes, and myrrh as incense in his palaces for aroma. History records that he had 700 wives and 300 concubines; supply to that requirement, how many mega tons would have been transported in today’s context, such was the demand for cinnamon, is mind-boggling beyond imagination. Another artifact records the ancient Egyptians used cinnamon as a preservative in cooking, for embalming dead bodies, and a vital ingredient in medicines.

The magnanimous fertility of Ceylon was covetously enticed by several invaders who established their reigns to overpower and control, in order to expand territories, possessions and wealth, particularly through the lucrative spice trade. The Portuguese and Dutch, followed by the British, were among the many that besieged this beautiful island that was vastly spread with an abundance of natural resources.


Fall and Rise of Cinnamon Monopoly:

The cinnamon monopoly began to weaken in the late 1700s, mainly to the selfish advantages of the Portuguese and Dutch, who had too much task mastery over the labourers. On the other hand, other countries learned the art and skill of cultivating cinnamon and realized that it could be easily grown in areas like Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Mauritius, Réunion, and Guyana.

However, the cinnamon business in Sri Lanka was bolstered by British mastery, which was rejuvenated by social and administrative reforms that harmonized local and foreign commercial policies. Their global campaigning for cinnamon was that if a quality product was to ever emerge, it could only come from a tropical country like Ceylon, which had reclaimed the cinnamon market. So, the demand for cinnamon in Europe was augmented thus. The whereabouts of this mysterious spice, which had been unknown for a long time, became no longer a secret for the western world.  Because of its exceptional quality, people were willing to pay exorbitant price for it.

Today, the Pure Ceylon Cinnamon and its genesis is universally acknowledged and irrefutably recognized as the original native product of Sri Lanka. Furthermore, the Sri Lankan Department of Export Agriculture catalogs this celestially fragrant True Ceylon Cinnamon as a time-honored spice having a history of roughly 2500 years, vouching all of the above claims, which is by no means an exaggeration.


Broad Categorization of Cinnamon:

Cinnamon belongs to the family of Lauraceae, and broadly classified into two categories of trees based on the quality.  Cinnamomum verum and Cinnamomum cassia. The True and Pure Ceylon Cinnamon is made out of Cinnamomum verum tree and is considered to have the immaculate quality due to its thinner barks with soft layers, most intricately perfumed sticks lined with the finest texture, impeccably milder in aroma and delicately intrinsic. The most expensive of all the cinnamon varieties that are sold in the international markets while being the largest producer of cinnamon is the Pure Ceylon Cinnamon. Unlike any other brand or kind, this is essentially attributed to the most experienced peelers with nifty hands that are the best in the know-how of skilful peeling, making longer premium quills and tight stuffing, coupled with the up-to-date management practices and the forethoughtful team of professionals. No doubt, with this legacy continuing, the legendary Pure Ceylon Cinnamon is at the apex of cutting the niche.  It has manifold medicinal values including its antioxidant properties.

On the other hand, Cinnamomum cassia, chiefly grown and harvested in China. Comparatively a harder bark, mostly single layered when rolled up and pretty hard to grind. It has a rough and pungent flavor that is used predominantly for Chinese recipes. In one the famous studies by Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Germany, stated that the consumption of 2 g per day by an average adult is inclined toward significant health risks due to its higher Coumarin levels, while Cinnamomum verum (Ceylon Cinnamon) is much safer especially in the management of diabetes and many other hormonal imbalances, lowering blood sugar and blood pressure, and regulating serum cholesterol levels.


How to pick the Cinnamomum verum, The True Cinnamon:

Only Sri Lanka produces high-quality, unadulterated cinnamon. When buying quills, it is even easier to pick them apart due to the quills’ shape as it is unique to Pure Ceylon Cinnamon and the several folds of light brown colour layers, like a cigar in real quills, cover the cavity. Cassia quills have a depression in the middle created by inward fold, thick and dark brown layers as a routine come in singles.


Different Forms of Cinnamon:

Cinnamon comes in various forms, commercially prepared for various purposes.

Sticks, quills, quilling, featherings, barks, and chips – These are from long tube-like structure to the pieces used for medicines, culinary and incense. Cinnamon sticks can also be used while brewing coffee and tea, or as stirrers for hot beverages.

Oils and Extracts – Used in food flavouring and cosmetics. As essential oils, topical usage, for body massages.

Powder – Also known as the ground cinnamon. Used for cooking and baking, and medicinal purposes.