Flavour, aroma and taste
The flavour of cinnamon is due to an aromatic essential oil that makes up 0.5 to 1% of its composition. This essential 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 (about 90% of the essential oil from the bark) and, by reaction with oxygen as it ages, it darkens in colour and forms resinous compounds. Other chemical components of the essential oil include ethyl cinnamate, eugenol (found mostly in the leaves), beta-caryophyllene, linalool, and methyl chavicol.
Cinnamon bark is used as a spice. It is principally employed in cookery as a condiment and favouring material. It is used in the preparation of chocolate, especially in Mexico, which is the main importer of cinnamon. It is also used in many dessert recipes, such as apple pie, doughnuts, and cinnamon buns as well as spicy candies, coffee, tea, hot cocoa, and liqueurs. In the Middle East, cinnamon 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, such as toast, and fruits, especially apples; a cinnamon-sugar mixture is even sold separately for such purposes. It is also used in Turkish cuisine for both sweet and savoury dishes. Cinnamon can also be used in pick ling. Cinnamon powder has long been an important spice in enhancing the flavour of Persian cuisine, used in a variety of thick soups, drinks, and sweets.
The first mention that the spice grew in Sri Lanka was in Zakariya al-Qazwini’s Athar al-bilad wa-akhbar al-‘ibad (“Monument of Places and History of God’s Bondsmen”) about 1270. This was followed shortly thereafter by John of Montecorvino in a letter of about 1292.
Indonesian rafts transported cinnamon directly from the Moluccas to East Africa, where local traders then carried it north to Alexandria in Egypt. Venetian traders from Italy held a monopoly on the spice trade in Europe, distributing cinnamon from Alexandria. 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.
When Portuguese traders landed in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), they restructured the traditional production and management of cinnamon by the Sinhalese. They established a fort on the island in 1518 and protected Ceylon as their cinnamon monopoly for over a hundred years. Later, Sinhalese held the monopoly for cinnamon in Ceylon.
Dutch traders finally dislodged the Portuguese by allying with the inland Kingdom of Kandy. They established a trading post in 1638, took control of the manufactories by 1640, and expelled the 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. “The Dutch East India Company continued to overhaul the methods of harvesting in the wild and eventually began to cultivate its own trees.
During the 1500s, when the Spanish sent an expedition out from New Spain (Mexico) and arrived at the Philippines, they found that Cinnamon was growing in the island of Mindanao near the Rajahnate of Butuan. The species of Cinnamon was Cinnamomum mindanaense which was closely related to Cinnamomum zeylanicum and was found to be just as good as the Cinnamon found in Sri Lanka. This Cinnamon was often mixed with the chocolate the Spanish discovered from the Aztecs in order to sweeten it. This alternative Mindanao cinnamon to the one found in Sri Lanka, which was controlled by the Portuguese, supplied Spanish needs and this cinnamon traveled the route through the Americas and eventually to Spain where it competed with Sri Lankan cinnamon.
In 1767, Lord Brown of the British East India Company established Anjarakkandy Cinnamon Estate near Anjarakkandy in Cannanore (now Kannur) district of Kerala, and this estate became Asia’s largest cinnamon estate. The British took control of Ceylon 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.