The history of cinnamon spice is vast as the spice was popular amongst many ancient peoples and has been for millennia, thus the many versions of its story of origin. Cinnamon has maintained its, popularity and is a favorite spice in our kitchens today.
Traditionally cinnamon was regarded as a gift for the monarchs and even the deity as it was highly prized, which was in part so that the merchants could keep control of its trade. The name cinnamon denotes all species of cinnamon tree barks and spices in use today.
There are several species of evergreen cinnamon trees whose inner barks are used for aroma and flavor. Known as mdalasini in Swahili, the most common for commercial use are cinnamomum verum (Ceylon Cinnamon), which means true cinnamon, cinamomum cassia or simply cassia (Saigon Cinnamon), cinnamomum loureiroi (Royal cinnamon), cinnamomum burmannii (Korintje Cinnamon). Here is a visual description of the different types of cinnamon .
Cassia cinnamon (Chinese cinnamon), is native to Southeastern Asia. Cassia, Saigon, and Korintje cinnamon are scientifically classified as Cassia Cinnamon, due to similarities in color, shape, and coumarin content.
Saigon cinnamon is a type of Cassia cinnamon. Also known as Vietnamese cinnamon, as it is mostly grown in Vietnam. It contains more cinnamaldehyde than other types.
Royal cinnamon is native to Vietnam. It has sensational sweet and spicy flavor.
Korintje cinnamon, also known as Indonesian cinnamon, is a specie of Cassia cinnamon that is native to Southeastern Asia.
Cinnamon is generally believed to have originated from the Arabia and then spread out to other regions through trade.
Cinnamon sticks are known as quills. It is easy to distinguish each species bark. Ceylon cinnamon quills (True cinnamon) have many thin layers and can easily be made into powder using a coffee or spice grinder, whereas cassia quills are much harder.
Indonesian cinnamon is often sold in neat quills made up of one thick layer, capable of damaging a spice or coffee grinder. Saigon cinnamon (Cassia cinnamon) and Chinese cinnamon (C. cassia) are always sold as broken pieces of thick bark, as the bark is not supple enough to be rolled into quills.
Cinnamon is available commercially in various forms, quills (the dry, coiled, inside part of the bark cut into sticks, essential oil, powdered (ground), gummies, and capsules.
In culinary cinnamon has been used extensively. In soups, baking, in tea/chai, coffee, cocoa, pilau rice in East Africa, Swahili chicken pilau, Cinnamon cassia (Saigon cinnamon) is the most commonly used cinnamon in baking.
It induces a strong spicy flavor, and is a favorite in baking; in western culture see cinnamon rolls. It is medium to light reddish-brown in color, hard and woody in texture, and thicker, as all of the layers of bark are used.
Ceylon cinnamon (True cinnamon), using only the thin inner bark, has a lighter brown color and a finer, less dense, and more crumbly texture. It is subtle and more aromatic in flavor than cassia and it loses much of its flavor during cooking.
In powder form, cinnamon is not easily distinguishable. And thus caution should be taken when using it in meals preparation.
Cinnamon health benefits include…
- May support gut health by balancing bacteria in your gut.
- My help manage blood pressure.
- Lowers blood sugar thus reduces the risk of type two diabetes.
- Cinnamon has antifungal, anti-bacterial and antiviral properties thus it used in traditional medicinal practices.
- Cinnamon is a natural insect repellant.