As the summer winds down and we get ready to head into the fall season, demand for cinnamon will begin its seasonal climb. Everyone is familiar with cinnamon, and most people have a fond regard for it. But what exactly is it? It’s an unusual spice in terms of its origin and processing, and as I added some to my coffee this morning, I thought it might nice to share some insight.
Cinnamon, as we think of it, is dried tree bark. Most spices are crushed plant matter of one sort or another: roots, chile pods, leaves, seeds, etc. Cinnamon sticks are unique in that they give you perfectly clear picture of their origin, even if it isn’t immediately obvious.
The bark is harvested from a variety of trees in the genus Cinnamomum (no, really! i looked it up). These plants are evergreen trees and shrubs with aromatic oils in their bark. When you look at a cinnamon stick, you’re seeing that bark and nothing else. The bark is peeled from live or freshly fallen trees prior to their use in local lumber projects across (mostly) Southeast Asia. The bark is peeled in straight sheets, then cut into thin strips. As the sheets dry out, they naturally curl in on themselves forming the familiar tubes we recognize as cinnamon sticks.
Once the sun has thoroughly done its duty, the sticks are processed a bit further. The outer edges of the stick (the part that used to be the exposed part of the plant’s trunk) is scraped off by hand. Then some are sold as is, and others are ground down for cinnamon powder.
The other interesting tidbit about cinnamon is the name. We use the word ‘cinnamon’ erroneously most of the time, if we want to be technical about it. The majority of cinnamon consumed here in the states is actually from a particular plant called cassia. So called ‘true cinnamon’ is from a tree called ceylon. Ceylon is a smaller shrub like tree, while cassia is a much bigger plant.
But we’re not feeling too technical most of the time, and like almost everyone else out there, we call our ‘cassia bark’ cinnamon. We currently have our Six Inch Cinnamon Sticks on sale to welcome the cooler weather.
Hope the change in seasons treats you and your customers well.