History of Cinnamon

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Cinnamon is the inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree. There are many different species, between 50 and 250, depending on which botanist you choose to believe. The two main varieties are Cinnamomum cassia and Cinnamomum zeylanicum. The first, cassia, we will consider separately in its own section. C. zeylanicum is also known as Ceylon cinnamon (the source of the its Latin name, zeylanicum), or ‘true cinnamon’ which is a lighter colour and possessing a sweeter, more delicate flavour than cassia. A native of Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) the best cinnamon grows along the coastal strip near Colombo.

In ancient Egypt cinnamon was used medicinally and as a flavouing for beverages, It was also used in embalming, where body cavities were filled with spiced preservatives. In the ancient world cinnamon was more precious than gold. This is not too surprising though, as in Egypt the abundance of gold made it a fairly common ornamental metal. Nero, emperor of Rome in the first century AD, burned a years supply of cinnamon on his wifes funeral pyre an extravagant gesture meant to signify the depth of his loss.

Cinnamon was known in medieval Europe, where it was a staple ingredient, along with ginger, in many recipes. Since most meals were prepared in a single cauldron, casseroles containing both meat and fruit were common and cinnamon helped bridge the flavours. When crusaders brought home sugar, it too was added to the pot. Mince pie is a typical combination of this period which still survives.

The demand for cinnamon was enough to launch a number of explorers’ enterprises. The Portuguese invaded Sri Lanka immediately after reaching India in 1536. The Sinhalese King paid the Portuguese tributes of 110,000 kilograms of cinnamon annually.
The Dutch captured Sri Lanka in 1636 and established a system of cultivation that exists to this day. In its wild state, trees grow high on stout trunks. Under cultivation, the shoots are continually cropped almost to ground level, resulting in a low bush, dense with thin leafy branches. From these, come the finest quills.

Spice Description
Cinnamon comes in ‘quills’, strips of bark rolled one in another. The pale brown to tan bar strips are generally thin, the spongy outer bark having been scraped off. The best varieties are pale and parchment-like in appearance. Cinnamon is very similar to cassia, and in North America little distinction is given, though cassia tends to dominate the market. Cinnamon is also available ground, and can be distinguished from cassia by its lighter colour and much finer powder.


Betelnut Comments Off on Betelnut

BetelnutBetel nut, also known as Bettlenut, Paaku, Pinang, Areca nut or Cau in Vietnamese, Chalia in the Hindi language, Supari in Bengali language and B?nlng in Taiwan, is the seed of the Betel palm (Areca catechu). Betel nuts can be chewed for their effects as a mildly euphoric stimulant, attributed to the presence of relatively high levels of psychoactive alkaloids. Chewing it increases the capacity to work, also causes a hot sensation in the body, heightened alertness and sweating. Chewing betel nuts is an important and popular cultural activity in many Asian countries.[citation needed] It is also used as an offering in Hinduism. In East and North-east India, Betel nut is chewed with Paan (Betel leaf). Betel nut and betel leaves are different in chemical compositions. Betel nuts contain arecaidine and guacine whereas the betel leaf oil contains a number of terpeneols.

The Betelnut also called Pugua or Mama’on by Guamanians are palm nuts from the areca tree. The scientific name for the tree is Areca catechu and resembles a thin coconut palm tree. These hard nuts are chewed casually like chewing gum by islanders and is a permanent feature of the cultures of the Pacific. Nut chewing is definitely an acquired habit more commonly passed down from grandparents (called guelo) to grandchildren.

Frequently, it is chewed with the betel leaf, a fresh green peppery tasting condiment. The leaf is called pupulu and different species from each island are different in taste. Betelnuts are chewed and harvested by millions of people from India, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Philippines, Marianas, American Samoa, Beleau, Bangladesh. The trees are found growing in moist ground and produce prodigous clusters of green fleshy nuts which mature into yellow and then brown hard nuts.

Modern day consumption

Betelnut SplitIn India (the largest consumer of betel nut), the betel nut is cut into small pieces using a special instrument called sarota, and the husk is wrapped in a “betel leaf” along with lime and may include clove, cardamom, catechu (kattha), etc. for extra flavouring. Betel leaf has a fresh, peppery taste, but, depending on the variety of betel pepper from which it comes, it can be very bitter. Experienced chewers might mix the betel nut with tobacco (the drug effect of the nicotine in tobacco resembles that of betel nut). This preparation of betel leaf with or without betel nut is commonly referred to as paan in India and Pakistan, and is available everywhere.

Betel nut is also sold in ready-to-eat pouches called Pan Masala. It is a mixture of many spices whose primary base is betel nut crushed into very small pieces. Sometimes Pan Masala also includes a small quantity of tobacco; in this case, the product is called gutka.

Betel leaf is a different species of plant than the betel nut, and not in the areca family, but the Piper family (same as pepper and Kava).

Depending on species, the nut sizes vary from thumbnail to fist size and the kernel (nut) is surrounded by husk. Chamorros or Guamanians have been consuming betelnut or pugua for thousands of years as evidenced by archeology. The activity is a cultural link to the past lifestyles of early chamorros.
Betelnut with lime and Cutter.

Islanders prefer the hard reddish nut variety called “ugam” for its fine granular texture.pagua When the red pugua nut is not in season, the coarse white variety “changnga” is eaten as an appropriate alternative. The nut is sliced using a specialized cutter {shown in the photo} called “tiheras pugua”. Citizens of Micronesia (Islanders from the ‘Freely associated Island Nations’ which occupy an area larger than the U.S.) also partake in this custom but many prefer a different soft betelnut species which is succulent or gelataneous.

For the seasoned chewer, ‘amaska’ i.e. the chewing tobacco brand “Mickey Twist” is mixed with the nut and leaf. For the brave at heart, ‘afuk’ or lime powder is also incorporated into the chewing experience. Lime is an alkaline white powder residue which results from cooking coral over an intense bonfire for several days.

Leaf-wrapped Betel Nuts, appearing as commonly prepared and sold in Taiwan
Leaf-wrapped Betel Nuts, appearing as commonly prepared and sold in Taiwan

Betel chewing is a tradition which dates back thousands of years. The bitter poultice is an acquired taste, and, although it is not clear why the people of the Pacific originally began to chew betelnut, the habit has been passed down through the generations and now provides a cultural link to their past.

The betel and betel juice play an important role in many countries including Myanmar (where it is called kunya), the Solomon Islands and Vietnam. The betel leaves and areca juices are used ceremonially in Vietnamese weddings. Betel leaves and areca juices start the talk between the groom’s parents and the bride’s parents about the young couple’s marriage. The betel and areca are such important symbols of love and marriage that in Vietnamese the phrase “matters of betel and areca” (chuy?n tr?u cau) is synonymous with marriage. There is a folk tale explaining the origin of this Vietnamese tradition.

In northeast India Betel leaves (pan) with a bit of lime and raw betel nut (called Tamul in Assamese, Sopari in Gujarati, and Kwai in Khasi) are consumed by a majority of the people. In Assam it is a tradition to offer Pan-tamul (Betel leaves and raw betel nut) to guests after tea or meals in a brass plate with stands called a Bota. In Assam betel nuts also have a variety of uses during religious and marriage ceremonies, where it takes on fertility symbolisms. It is also a tradition, especially in Upper Assam, to invite guests to wedding receptions by offering a few betel nuts with leaves. During Bihu, the husori players are offered betel nuts and leaves by each household and their blessings are solicited


Cinnamon Comments Off on Cinnamon

Cinnamon LeafCinnamon (Cinnamomum verum, synonym C. zeylanicum) is a small evergreen tree 10-15 meters (32.8-49.2 feet) tall, belonging to the family Lauraceae, native to Sri Lanka and South India. The bark is widely used as a spice due to its distinct odour. In India it is also known as “Daalchini”. The leaves are ovate-oblong in shape, 7-18 cm (2.75-7.1 inches) long. The flowers, which are arranged in panicles, have a greenish color, and have a distinct odor. The fruit is a purple one-centimetre berry containing a single seed.

Its flavour is due to an aromatic essential oil which makes up 0.5 to 1% of its composition. This oil is prepared by roughly pounding the bark, macerating it in sea-water, and then quickly distilling the whole. It is of a golden-yellow colour, with the characteristic odour of cinnamon and a very hot aromatic taste. The pungent taste and scent come from cinnamic aldehyde or cinnamaldehyde and, by the absorption of oxygen as it ages, it darkens in colour and develops resinous compounds. Chemical components of the essential oil include ethyl cinnamate, eugenol, cinnamaldehyde, beta-caryophyllene, linalool and methyl chavicol.

The name cinnamon comes from Greek kinnm?mon, from Phoenician and akin to Hebrew qinnmn, itself ultimately from a Malaysian language, cf. Malay and Indonesian kayu manis which means sweet wood.


Cinnamon has been known from remote antiquity, and it was so highly prized among ancient nations that it was regarded as a gift fit for monarchs and other great potentates. It was imported to Egypt from China as early as 2000 BC, and is mentioned in the Bible in Exodus 30:23, where Moses is commanded to use both sweet cinnamon (Hebrew ?????????, qinn?mn) and cassia, and in Proverbs 7:17-18, where the lover’s bed is perfumed with myrrh, aloe and cinnamon, then lastly in Song of Solomon 4:14, a song describing the beauty of his beloved, cinnamon scents her garments like the smell of Lebanon. It is also alluded to by Herodotus and other classical writers. It was commonly used on funeral pyres in Rome, and the Emperor Nero is said to have burned a year’s supply of cinnamon at the funeral for his wife Poppaea Sabina, in 65 AD.

In the Middle Ages, the source of cinnamon was a mystery to the Western world. Arab traders brought the spice via overland trade routes to Alexandria in Egypt, where it was bought by Venetian traders from Italy who held a monopoly on the spice trade in Europe. The disruption of this trade by the rise of other Mediterranean powers, such as the Mamluk Sultans and the Ottoman Empire, was one of many factors that led Europeans to search more widely for other routes to Asia.

Portuguese traders finally discovered Ceylon (Sri Lanka) at the end of the fifteenth century, and restructured the traditional production of cinnamon by the salagama caste. The Portuguese established a fort on the island in 1518, and protected their own monopoly for over a hundred years.

Dutch traders finally dislodged the Portuguese by allying with the inland Ceylon kingdom of Kandy. They established a trading post in 1638, took control of the factories by 1640, and expelled all remaining Portuguese by 1658. “The shores of the island are full of it”, a Dutch captain reported, “and it is the best in all the Orient: when one is downwind of the island, one can still smell cinnamon eight leagues out to sea” (Braudel 1984, p. 215).

The Dutch East India Company continued to overhaul the methods of harvesting in the wild, and eventually began to cultivate its own trees.

The British took control of the island from the Dutch in 1796. However, the importance of the monopoly of Ceylon was already declining, as cultivation of the cinnamon tree spread to other areas, the more common cassia bark became more acceptable to consumers, and coffee, tea, sugar and chocolate began to outstrip the popularity of traditional spices.

According to FAO, Indonesia produced almost 40% of the world cinnamon (canella) output in 2005 followed by China, India and Vietnam.


Cinnamon is harvested by growing the tree for two years and then coppicing it. The next year a dozen or so shoots will form from the roots. These shoots are then stripped of their bark which is left to dry. Only the thin (0.5 mm) inner bark is used; the outer woody portion is removed, leaving metre long cinnamon strips that curl into rolls (“quills”) on drying; each dried quill comprises strips from numerous shoots packed together. These quills are then cut to 5-10 cm long pieces for sale.

Cinnamon comes from Sri Lanka, and the tree is also grown commercially at Tellicherry in southern India, Java, Sumatra, the West Indies, Brazil, Vietnam, Madagascar, Zanzibar, and Egypt. Sri Lanka cinnamon is a very thin smooth bark, with a light-yellowish brown colour, a highly fragrant aroma.

Cassia Vera and Cinnamon

Cinnamon Stick

The name cinnamon is correctly used to refer to Ceylon Cinnamon, also known as “true cinnamon” (from the botanical name C. verum). However, the related species Cassia (Cinnamomum aromaticum) and Cinnamomum burmannii are sometimes sold labeled as cinnamon, sometimes distinguished from true cinnamon as “Indonesian cinnamon” or, at least for Cassia, “Bastard cinnamon.” Ceylon cinnamon, using only the thin inner bark, has a finer, less dense, and more crumbly texture, and is considered to be less strong than cassia. Cassia is generally a medium to light reddish brown. Cinnamon was used widely in the northeast region of europe in its early arrival to the us. is hard and woody in texture, and is thicker (2-3 mm thick), as all of the layers of bark are used. All of the powdered cinnamon sold in supermarkets in the United States is actually Cassia. European health agencies have recently warned against consuming high amounts of cassia, due to a toxic component called coumarin.[1] This is contained in much lower dosages in Ceylon cinnamon and in Cinnamomum burmannii. Coumarin is known to cause liver and kidney damage in high concentrations.

The two barks when whole are easily distinguished, and their microscopic characteristics are also quite distinct. Cinnamon sticks (or quills) have many thin layers and can easily be made into powder using a coffee or spice grinder whereas cassia sticks are much harder, made up of one thick layer, capable of damaging a spice or coffee grinder. It is a bit harder to tell powdered cinnamon from powdered cassia. When powdered bark is treated with tincture of iodine (a test for starch), little effect is visible in the case of pure cinnamon of good quality, but when cassia is present a deep-blue tint is produced, the intensity of the coloration depending on the proportion of cassia.

Cinnamon is also sometimes confused with Malabathrum (Cinnamomum tamala) and Saigon Cinnamon (Cinnamomum loureiroi).


Cinnamon bark is widely used as a spice. It is principally employed in cookery as a condiment and flavouring material, being largely used in the preparation of some kinds of desserts, chocolate, spicy candies, tea, hot cocoa and liqueurs. In the Middle East, it is often used in savoury dishes of chicken and lamb. In the United States, cinnamon and sugar are often used to flavour cereals, bread-based dishes, and fruits, especially apples; a cinnamon-sugar mixture is even sold separately for such purposes. Cinnamon can also be used in pickling. Cinnamon bark is one of the few spices which can be consumed directly.

In medicine it acts like other volatile oils and once had a reputation as a cure for colds. It has also been used to treat diarrhea and other problems of the digestive system. Cinnamon is high in antioxidant activity . The essential oil of cinnamon also has antimicrobial properties, which aid in the preservation of certain foods.

In the media, “cinnamon” has been reported to have remarkable pharmacological effects in the treatment of type II diabetes. However, the plant material used in the study was actually cassia, as opposed to true cinnamon (see cassia’s medicinal uses for more information about its health benefits). Cinnamon has traditionally been used to treat toothache and fight bad breath and its regular use is believed to stave off common cold and aid digestion.

Cinnamon is used in the system of Thelemic Magick for the invocation of Apollo, according to the correspondences listed in Aleister Crowley’s work Liber 777.

Cinnamon is also used as an insect repellent

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