Posted in Kafevend Blog
Cinnamon is derived from the inner bark of a variety of evergreen species belonging to the cinnamomum genus. The cinnamon sticks you can buy, also known as quills, are curled lengths of the bark. Four species of cinnamomum now make up the majority of that sold on the market today: verum (Ceylon), cassia (Chinese), loureiroi (Saigon) and burmannii (Indonesian). Each species possesses different tastes and aromas in much the same way that the coffea species arabica and robusta differ.
Cinnamon and its use as a spice can be traced back to ancient times, appearing in Egypt, Greece, Rome and China for example. As with spices in general in these periods, it was an exceedingly rare and precious commodity, with royalty and the higher classes being the only people possessing enough wealth to acquire it. Along with its more traditional use in cooking, it was also used in religious ceremonies as incense and as perfume, thanks to its pleasant aroma.
Cinnamon first entered Europe with trade between Egypt and Arabia and Venetian traders during the Middle Ages. Venice held a monopoly on many spices for some time, but for cinnamon at least the Portuguese managed to break their hold. The Portuguese established colonies and overhauled the production method of cinnamon on the island of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in the 16th century. They were ousted by the Dutch E.I.C. in the middle of the 17th century, who in turn were ousted by the British at the end of the 18th century. The poor old Brits didn't get much out of it however, as other species of cinnamon were cultivated around the globe, reducing the worth of that grown in Ceylon.