Posted in Kafevend Blog
Hot chocolate spices
Things have been looking up when it comes to the weather recently: the sun is out, there's a crisp breeze, nary a cloud in the sky and to top it all off the days are starting to lengthen out once more. It's hard to escape the fact that it's jolly cold though! In these cooler climes, we think it's best to turn to an old friend- hot chocolate. It's something we haven't considered for a while, but it seems there is no better time. Rather than go over the basics, which we are sure you are familiar with, we thought we would consider how you can soup up your hot chocolate with a medley of spices. Let's start with one of the most popular additions to a hot chocolate- cinnamon.
Cinnamon is a type of bark sourced from the inner layer of various species of tree belonging to the genus Cinnamomum. For the cinnamon connoissuer, cinnamomum verum is considered to be true cinnamon, whilst the rest of us have to make do with cassia, or Chinese cinnamon. This species originated in Southern China, where it is now cultivated for the spice as well as in various other south and east Asian countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia.
Cinnamomum verum makes up around a third of the total cinnamon produced. Of this, most of it is grown in Sri Lanka- sensibly, given its other name, Ceylon cinnamon- with the remainder grown in the Seychelles and Madagascar. The rest is produced from a variety of species such as cassia, with the lion's share coming from Indonesia, topped up by production in China, India and Vietnam.
So how do we end up with those tiny parchment like sticks? Traditionally, cinnamon trees are grown for a couple of years before they are cut right back to ground level. This encourages lots of new stems to grow quickly out of the base- this is a technique known as coppicing. After another year, these stems are cut down. The outer layer of bark is scraped off, and then the stems are beaten to loosen the inner bark which is peeled off. It is further broken down by removing the outer layer, leaving an incredibly thin strip. These are left to dry, where they curl up into rolls known as quills. They are finally cut into uniform lengths and are ready to be packaged, shipped and sold.
The mellow heat and sweetness of cinnamon is a perfect match for a hot chocolate. When it comes to adding it to your drink you have a couple of options. Powdered cinnamon is easy enough: stir in a spoonful, or alternatively sprinkle some over the top if you're into prettying up your drink. Easier still is to grab a stick of cinnamon and give it a swirl!