Spice Journey: Cinnamon

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Savory Spice Team
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Savory Spice Shop

Cinnamon has woven itself through the fabric of our history and into our hearts. For me, it’s memories of mom’s “special breakfast” of baked apple with cinnamon and sugar, an adolescent winter walk warmed by my first (very sugary) coffee, and of course all things Christmas. But have you ever wondered where the cinnamon on your table comes from and how it gets there?

What is Cinnamon?

Cinnamon is the inner layer of bark from evergreen trees of the genus Cinnamomum, native to China, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. It made its first appearance in cooking and medicinal uses as far back as 2,000 B.C and was one of the first commodities traded by the Arabs along the spice trade route.

 

Types of Cinnamon

The two most common types of cinnamon are Ceylon and Cassia.

If you have the opportunity, visit any of our locations to take a “Cinnamon Tour” and taste your way through the different types we carry. You can also read more about the types of cinnamon we carry on our website.

 

Cassia vs Ceylon
Pictured: Cassia sticks on left, Ceylon sticks on right

Ceylon
Also known as “true” cinnamon, this variety has a milder, sweeter flavor than the cinnamon you are likely used to. While this type of cinnamon is preferred in England and Mexico, until recently it has been less popular in the United States.

Ceylon Flavor: Bright, Citrusy, Sweet

 

Cassia
The classic cinnamon flavor that is commonly sold in the U.S., this variety actually comes from the bark of a related species, the cassia tree. This variety has a stronger, spicier flavor than Ceylon.

Saigon Cassia Flavor: Bold, Spicy, Lingering

Indonesian (Korintje) Cinnamon Flavor: Mellow, Familiar, Sweet

Chinese (Tung Hing) Cinnamon Flavor: Warm, Balanced

 

Harvesting cassia
The harvesting of cassia in the jungles of Sumatra (Source)

The Harvest

Today, just as was done for thousands of years, farmers first remove the outer bark off the trees, then shave off the delicious inner bark. This is the first step in Cinnamon’s journey to our shelves and your kitchen. The bark is dried over the course of about a week, during which time it curls into the familiar shape of cinnamon sticks.

 

 

 

The Journey 

Though a lot has changed in the world since the days of the ancient Spice Trade, some things have not. Cinnamon is still shipped by boat, making the long journey from local producers and distributers in Sri Lanka, China, and Indonesia to New York.

From there, the cinnamon is shipped directly to our warehouse in Denver, Colorado by plane.

The journey of cinnamon

Ground Cinnamon

Saigon and Organic Ceylon come in as large “chips” of bark, while the Indonesian arrives as sticks. The bark and sticks are then ground down in small batches weekly at our warehouse in Denver to the fine powder you are familiar with.

We even have a small room dedicated entirely to grinding cinnamon, since the process imparts an explosive, delicious powder on everything (and everyone) nearby.

 

Sticks and Chips

The Saigon variety also gets broken up into smaller chips that are perfect for flavoring drinks or for grinding your own fresh and potent cinnamon.

Indonesian and Ceylon Cinnamon Sticks are also available for purchase. Cinnamon sticks are ideal for mulled cider or wine, but try using one to stir your tea or hot chocolate!

 

To Your Kitchen

Ground Supreme Saigon Cinnamon
Cinnamon - A kitchen staple! 

The ground cinnamon, cinnamon sticks and chips are then stocked in our warehouse and shipped in small batches to our stores nationwide.

As with all our products, we pack and label each jar of cinnamon by hand in each store and here in Denver for internet orders. Cinnamon is our most popular spice and it doesn’t stay on the shelves long.

 

Shop Cinnamon

 

 

My mom taught me to simmer cinnamon sticks, orange peels, and nutmeg to make the ultimate holiday fragrance bomb before having guests over. What are your most treasured uses for cinnamon? Share them in the comments below and make sure your cabinet is stocked up on this spice essential.


Comments on this Article


(guest), on January 27, 2018

think you should research health info and add it: pretty sure it is the ceylon that is supposed to help regulate blood sugar.....

(guest), on January 27, 2018

I put an extra teaspoon of cinnamon in my pumpkin bread and pumpkin pies. Traditional, ginger snap cookies are the Christmas fragrance in my kitchen, all year round. Even my homemade dog cookies get cinnamon.

(guest), on January 27, 2018

I was taking cinnamon capsules for high blood pressure and then learned that large doses of the cassia version can damage the liver. I am not aware of any medicinal or therapeutic uses for cassia cinnamon. I think it is important to clearly label cinnamon's source. I don't know of a problem in using the stronger cassia in small doses for cooking but it is something I think should be on the front label.

(guest), on January 27, 2018

My understanding is that the "true" Ceylon variety does not cause the liver problems that are attributable to the Cassia variety.

(guest), on January 27, 2018

Our entire spice cabinet and rack is made up of Savory spices. We had the opportunity about two weeks ago to visit a spice farm in Belize where we got to see cinnamon trees and many of the other spices that we take for granted. It was a great experience and makes us value how great the spices are. Now each time we cook we think of all the different spices we saw and how they’re grown and harvested.

(guest), on January 27, 2018

A Weight Watcher friend tells me she uses a bit of cinnamon in her tomatoes/pasta sauces for more flavor. I look forward to trying it!

(guest), on January 27, 2018

Love all cinnamon, have also read that cassia is not ideal for health in large medicinal quantities though totally delicious and safe in everyday cooking. The Ceylon cinnamon is supposedly good for you, as another writer mentioned. In Greek and Middle Eastern cooking, stews, soups, or sauces with tomato very often include some cinnamon to sweeten and round out the flavor.

(guest), on January 27, 2018

Use Ceylon cinnamon on my peanut butter toast five days a week. A teaspoon plus on each slice of toast followed by the peanut butter. Besides the wonderful taste my blood sugar numbers have dropped 30 - 40 numbers since I started eating Ceylon cinnamon rather than Saigon variety. Also my INR is more stable likely due to not getting the extra Coumadin in Saigon.

(guest), on January 27, 2018

I looked over your article but missed an interesting part of the spices’ story. Around 450 b.c. The Greek hisorian Herodotus wrote that cinnamon was from Arabia- supposedly giant cinnamon birds built their nests from cinnamon trees taken from unknown lands. The clever Arabians stole the sticks from the bird’s nests, at great personal risk, and brought the spices to market. Apparently this was believed for several hundred years..,,

(guest), on January 27, 2018

I spoon some Ceylon Cinnamon right into my ground coffee to brew together ??

Ariana (registered user) on January 29, 2018

Hey, Ariana here from Savory Spice! Thank you all for your comments. We love hearing the many ways you all use cinnamon. There are so many cooking applications for cinnamon outside of baking and sprinkling. We have a number of beautifully balanced blends that contain cinnamon for savory dishes! My personal favorite is Barnegat Bay Butcher's Rub on pork, but Mt. Eolus Greek Style Seasoning is another fabulous example. Most curries also contain cinnamon! Happy cooking!

(guest), on January 29, 2018

Interesting reading all the comments. I have always used the Saigon and look forward to trying the Ceylon. "Bright, citrusy, sweet" are words that talk to me. I keep Land O'Lakes cocoa in my drawer at work. I make it every morning in winter. I also keep a container of cinnamon in my drawer to sprinkle on my hot cocoa. I think our first house sold because I put a pie plate with water, vanilla, and cinnamon in the oven on warm during the Open House. On the Hoosier sat a fresh baked Apple Pie.

(guest), on January 29, 2018

What an informative article. One thing I would have liked even better is to be given the Latin names of the plants to help clarify their relation. Apparently the two types of cinnamon are different species but the same genera (Cinnamomum verum and Cinnamomum cassia).

RogerR (registered user) on January 30, 2018

Cinnamon also has anti fungal properties. I use it when dividing orchids by simply placing a "healthy" sprinkling directly to the cut surfaces. The cinnamon powder resists water and allows the cut time to dry off the cut surface. For coffee, I microwave 1 inch of stick in the water then pour it into the cup. Good for a little sparkle in green tea too.

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