It’s a loud bark and indispensible too. No I’m not talking about canine behaviour. I’m referring to the bark of Cinnamomum, a tropical evergreen tree that belongs to the Laurel family. Cinnamon is derived from the bark of this tree. Ah, now that makes sense, right?
Consumers like us are familiar with the thin strips of cinnamon bark. Well almost — till you feel it and smell it of course — the aroma is a giveaway. Most individuals would agree that cinnamon is a warm and aromatic spice. It’s hard to resist and adds a spicy charm to kormas, and baked goodies like cinnamon rolls and crunchy cinnamon-infused granola bars. Mulled wines usually served during Christmas and Halloween can’t do without it. You tweak a regular dish with cinnamon and it becomes esoteric.
So then, it’s no surprise that cinnamon was more precious than gold in the ancient world. At that time, I believe cinnamon was a gift fit for the King and the Gods. Well, an inscription points to the fact that cinnamon and cassia were gifted to the Temple of Apollo at Miletus, an ancient Greek city.
The Old Testament makes mention of it as much as the Hebrew Bible. Cinnamon has been popular with most of the civilizations that have been in existence right from the medieval times. In many parts of the world cinnamon is known by its Latin name Cinnamomum Verum. Though there are many varieties of cinnamon, the Ceylon and cassia cinnamon are popular variants. Ceylon cinnamon is so called because it’s native to Sri Lanka and is hailed as true cinnamon. The cassia cinnamon is also called Chinese Cinnamon since it grows in China and South East Asia. This is relatively milder than the Ceylon cinnamon. Generally cinnamon is expensive because the bark is peeled from the stem manually and is labour intensive.
Nearer home, India has always had a stronghold in the Spice segment. Spice history has it that cinnamon was the most lucrative spice during the times of the Dutch East India Company.We in India identify it as dalchini. Our spice jars at home are incomplete without cinnamon powder. A pinch of cinnamon makes garam masala and curry powder distinctive. Cinnamon tea has a delicate aroma. Condiments use the cinnamon leaf oil while perfumes and cosmetics make use of the oil from the bark. We grow cinnamon and cassia in parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In the commercial markets, it’s packaged in the form of curly quills or as a ground version. Over a period of time, both forms of cinnamon have made their way into Indian kitchens. Besides its exotic taste, cinnamon is known for its antimicrobial and antioxidant and therapeutic properties.
Even as I put down my thoughts on cinnamon, I could hear the pitter-patter of rain, which grew louder. The sudden morning rain had rendered the ground brown. The mood was just right for coffee. I headed to make myself cinnamon coffee, the warm agreeable taste of cinnamon nicely rounds off the coffee flavour.