Ceylon cinnamon

The name original from Greek kinnámōmon, the botanical namefor the spice- Cinnamon Zeylanicum, from Sri Lanka’s former colonial name- Ceylon .

There are several varieties of cinnamon, but most commonly know are the True Cinnamon (Cinnamomum Zeylanicum) 90% of world production originates from Sri Lanka, and Cassia (Cinnamomum Aromaticum) harvested in much larger quantites from Indonesia, Vietnam, China as largest producers.

Ceylon cinnamon is a finer more delicate product, which uses the inner bark and is manually layered to produce a quill similar to a Havana cigar. The handcrafted process is time consuming and very traditional using methods and tools unchanged for hundreds of years to date. The Ceylon cinnamon is less dense and will crumble under harsh handling. The aroma is sweeter, smoother and less harsh than its counter part, cassia.

Cassia is a single layer of clean bark, about ten times thicker than Ceylon Cinnamon and a quill when held is very stiff (like holding a pencil) and difficult to grind on commercial grinders. The flavor is stronger and more harsh than cinnamon due to a higher content of volatiles.

Both products have their respective markets, and although similar taste profiles, they are different in so many other ways. One of the most important to consider is the chemical compositions and high content of coumarin in cassia. True Cinnamon has neglible amounts of coumarin. We encourage you to research effects of coumarin.

Why is true Cinnamon is less known throughout the world?

1. Availability of product is less, since 90% is only grown in Sri Lanka

2. Cost of manufacturing is higher due to delicate hadling required. Cassia is a fraction of the price and imported into the market place as cinnamon. Most suppliers do not give customers the option of choosing between the two most popular types of cinnamon.

3. True Cinnamon is not easily found in most markets, mainly due to the cost difference in comparison to cassia.

4. If product is not available in the market, consumers are not aware of what they are missing. The largest consumer of True Cinnamon in the world is Mexico. If you like Mexican food, you will enjoy True Cinnamon as it’s a vital ingredient in many food and dessert recipes. If you cannot find True Cinnamon in your local super market, visit your nearest Mexican food market.

Ceylon Cinnamon is a finer more delicate product, which uses the inner bark and is manually layered to produce a quill similar to a Havana cigar. The hand crafted process is time consuming and very traditional using methods and tools unchanged for hundreds of years to date. They Ceylon cinnamon is less dense and will crumble under harsh handling. The aroma is sweeter and less harsh than its counterpart.

Cassia is a single layer of clean bark, about ten times thicker than Ceylon Cinnamon and a quill when held is very stiff (like holding a pencil). Do not try to grind in commercial grinders. The flavor is stronger and more harsh than True Cinnamon due to higher content of volatiles. We recommend research on research about high content of coumarin in cassia.

Spice for health

The apothecary’s store

Chew on a cardamom or a peppercorn, or inhale the aroma of freshly cured cinnamon bark. Without warning, you are transported into a different state of being. Potent organic compounds saturate your palate and nostrils, working their aromatic enchantment. Immediately your brain switches gears. Your perceptions are altered, your mood is transformed. The sluices of memory open, spilling forth long-lost images and associations – a fondly-remembered family reunion, a lovers’ holiday in a foreign land. Strange sensations assail you: you break into a sweat, or salivate profusely, or feel your sinuses open up. You may feel unusually invigorated, or unusually relaxed; and that toothache or queasiness from which you were suffering has suddenly vanished.

Such is the power of spices, familiar to us all. Some folk make use of it to good psychological effect. A canny house-broker boils cinnamon in a pot of water to fill the houses she sells with a warm, comforting, homelike smell. A long-distance truck driver chews peppermint to help keep him alert and relaxed in the cab. A hung-over executive sucks on cloves to clear his head and freshen his morning-after breath. Some of these amateur prescriptions have been validated by scientists: clinical trials show that peppermint really does seem to reduce stress and fatigue in motorists, as does cinnamon. And a recent study found that saffron may help in cases of mild to moderate depression which may explain why wealthy ancient Romans liked to sleep on pillows stuffed with it!

The apothecary’s store

The mood-enhancing and -altering effects claimed for these and other spices are only one aspect of the curative and therapeutic powers attributed to them. Some of these claims are as old as time; fenugreek is said to cure baldness, ginger to possess aphrodisiac properties. Other claims are as new as this morning’s headlines: Cinnamon Offers Plethora of Health Benefits, Common Spice May Protect Skin During Radiation Therapy.

How valid are these claims? Some are probably old wives’ tales, such as the Roman gladiators’ belief that eating dill strengthens the body before a contest. And if such a thing as a cure for baldness exists, it certainly isn’t fenugreek! But other claims are far more credible. We know that long-ago healers made extensive therapeutic use of spices, which appear in every traditional pharmacopoeia and play a paticularly important role in the ancient and elaborate traditional medicines of South Asia (Ayurveda) and China.

In fact, many spice marketed by Ceylon Spice Co. have important health-giving properties in Ayurveda: cardamom is said to clear the body’s airways and aid digestion, cloves are recommended for sore throats as well as toothache, coriander relieves cold symptoms and is sometimes used to treat allergies. Ginger is the Indian vishwabesaj, or ‘universal medicine’, though turmeric, the most versatile South Asian spice, may better deserve the name. For the traditional Ayurvedic physician, spices are the medicaments of choice.

For centuries, Western medical scientists were sceptical about the efficacy of these traditional remedies. The last few decades have seen much of this scepticism melt away – in the increasingly multicultural world spices have helped create, the exotic and the outlandish quickly become familiar, and people will adopt remedies that work – wherever they originate and whether or not ‘orthodox’ medical science approves of them.Yet, increasingly often, orthodox medical science does approve. Many traditional spice-based remedies have been given the nod by Western doctors, while others are under study in the belief that they may yield new treatments for the diseases that ail us in our modern lives. Among these, one potential superstar is turmeric, long known as an effective antibacterial agent, which now appears to have therapeutic properties even the ancient physicians did not suspect. Studies have suggested that extracts of turmeric could be useful in fighting degenerative diseases like arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease, protect cancer patients’ skin from damage caused by radiotherapy and may even help.shrink their tumours. The active ingredient in most of these effects is curcumin, which gives turmeric (and hence garam masala or curry powder) their yellow colour.

Other researchers have found that spices, on the whole, help preserve intelligence and alertness, and retard the physical and mental effects of ageing. Cinnamon, the classic Sri Lankan spice, contains high levels of the antioxidant compounds responsible for these benefits; it is also used as a digestive, carminative and cold remedy, and has significant antibacterial properties as well.

The spice of life

Variety, is ‘the very spice of life’. And indeed, the variety that spices add to our lives through their ability to bring zest and excitement to a dish of the simplest ingredients is what we most value them for. If they had no other virtue, for this alone we would still make eager use of them.

Yet we are doubly fortunate, for the spices that flavour the foods we eat have benefits above and beyond the merely culinary. They also keep us sound in body and mind, helping – if the old Chinese, Indian and Sri Lankan doctors are right – to preserve the optimal balance of a healthy constitutions. Spice of life, indeed.

Spice world

Globalization is a buzzword today, but it began thousands of years ago with the spice trade. It was travelling spice merchants who carried cultural influences – tastes, manners, ideas, beliefs, craft skills, folk tales and so much more – between the kingdoms of the Old World. The trade supported the rise of Western Europe to world dominance, bringing about the next stage of global integration. The tightly-bound, multicultural global society we live in exists in large measure because of spices and the demand for them. And spices thrive in our globalized world as never before. Tastes travel, mix and mingle; every big city now boasts restaurants featuring popular cuisines from all over the world – Chinese, French, Indian, Italian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Thai and many others, each with the typical spices and methods of preparation that give it character. In our homes, too, we have become more adventurous, experimenting with new ingredients, trying out exotic dishes on our guests, making full use of the expanded palette of spices and condiments that global trade has made accessible and affordable to us. In the twenty-first century, everyone is a gastronomic cosmopolite. Spices, it seems, bring out the best not only in food, but in people: sensuality, a taste for variety, willingness to experiment, empathy with other races and cultures, a spirit of adventure and much more. Spices have helped shape the world we live in and the kind of people we are, and they continue to give our lives richness and flavour. In a way, that old Assyrian myth really isn’t far from the truth.

The spice empires

What happened after that is well known. As Arab power declined, that of Europe rose. European navigators set out to discover the mysterious lands where spices grew. Vasco da Gama sailed round Africa, finding a route to the ‘Indies’ the Arabs couldn’t block; after him came a host of explorers –  Portuguese, Dutch, French, English. Unable to compete against Western seafaring and military technology, the Arabs and their co-religionists retired, leaving the field to the Europeans. The new masters of the trade fought amongst themselves for dominance. Every spice island and trading post was a prize worth any number of lives, for spices had lost none of their value over the centuries; indeed, if anything their value had increased. Monopolies were fiercely protected. The Portuguese and Dutch tried to prevent the export of nutmeg from the Moluccas; Pierre Poivre, a French colonial official, risked his life to smuggle nutmeg and clove seedlings from those islands to Mauritius. His name, translated into English, is immortalized in the nursery-rhyme that begins

peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers

Huge European fortunes were amassed in pepper, cinnamon and cloves; wars were foight and unspeakable atrocities committed for the sake of the trade; and by it Europe acquired her vast world-spanning empires, which she held to until the middle of the twentieth century. 

Trade secrets & travellers’ tales

Asians and North Africans seem to have used spices – some home-grown, others imported – since the dawn of history, but the spread of civilization to Europe in the first millennium b.c. created a whole new source of demand, one that never seemed to stop growing. Greeks and Persians involved themselves in the trade, travelling as far as India and Sri Lanka (where the ancient, still-functioning seaport of Galle has been identified by some as the Biblical Tarshish) to do business. The main beneficiaries of European demand for spices, however, were the Arabs. The principal route between the spice-growing lands of Asia and the countries of the Mediterranean lay across the Arabian Peninsula, whose inhabitants took full advantage of their geographical good fortune. Arabs became the gatekeepers of the spice trade. To put inquisitive Greeks and Romans off the scent, they made up fabulous tales about the origins of the spices they dealt in – such as the claim, credulously repeated in Herodotus, that cinnamon grew on the tops of mountains, jealously guarded by giant birds. The Romans, despite the massive wealth of their empire, deeply resented the expense of the Arab spice monopoly and went to great lengths to break it. First they attempted to invade Arabia; when that failed, they went exploring, and discovered how to sail to India and back making use of the monsoon winds. Navigation succeeded where conquest had failed: the Romans – possibly the world’s greatest-ever consumers of spices and fragrances – took over the international trade. Then, early in the seventh century, an Arab spice trader named Mohammed founded a new religion, which swept out of the desert to spread across the earth from the Atlantic Ocean to the Sea of Japan. The triumph of Islam saw the return of Arabs to dominance in the spice trade, a position they maintained for the next seven hundred years.

How spices made the world we live in

Spices existed before the world began. So says an ancient Assyrian myth, according to which the gods drank sesame wine the night before they created the Earth.

More reliable sources, dating from about 2,600 b.c., inform us that the labourers who built the Great Pyramid of Cheops were fed spices to give them strength. And not very long after that, the ancient Syrians began using cloves – amazing when you consider that cloves then only grew in the spice islands of Indonesia. Later Egyptian embalmers also made frequent use of cinnamon, a Sri Lankan plant. Over a thousand years before Prince Vijaya, the legendary founder of the Sinhalese race, set foot in Lanka, our island was already part of a sophisticated international trading network!

This does not mean that Egyptian merchants ever visited Sri Lanka, or vice versa. Then, as now, the spice trade supported complex chains of carriers and middlemen. The embalmers probably got their cinnamon from Chinese merchants, who in turn acquired it by direct trade with Lanka or through intermediaries. Ancient Egyptians used spices in all manner of ways, making their country possibly the biggest market for these goods in the ancient world. It is no coincidence that the travelling merchants to whom the Hebrew prophet Joseph was sold by his brothers were spice merchants en route to Egypt. Spices were precious, a source of potentially immense wealth. The Bible relates that when the Queen of Sheba came to court King Solomon, her gifts to him included gold, precious stones – and spices.