Gather ‘Round the Table:
Cinnamon has woven itself through the fabric of our history and into our hearts. For me, it’s memories of mom’s “special breakfast” of baked apple with cinnamon and sugar, an adolescent winter walk warmed by my first (very sugary) coffee, and of course all things Christmas. But have you ever wondered where the cinnamon on your table comes from and how it gets there?
What is Cinnamon?
Cinnamon is the inner layer of bark from evergreen trees of the genus Cinnamomum, native to China, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. It made its first appearance in cooking and medicinal uses as far back as 2,000 B.C and was one of the first commodities traded by the Arabs along the spice trade route.
Types of Cinnamon
The two most common types of cinnamon are Ceylon and Cassia.
If you have the opportunity, visit any of our locations to take a “Cinnamon Tour” and taste your way through the different types we carry. You can also read more about the types of cinnamon we carry on our website.
Also known as “true” cinnamon, this variety has a milder, sweeter flavor than the cinnamon you are likely used to. While this type of cinnamon is preferred in England and Mexico, until recently it has been less popular in the United States.
Ceylon Flavor: Bright, Citrusy, Sweet
The classic cinnamon flavor that is commonly sold in the U.S., this variety actually comes from the bark of a related species, the cassia tree. This variety has a stronger, spicier flavor than Ceylon.
Saigon Cassia Flavor: Bold, Spicy, Lingering
Indonesian (Korintje) Cinnamon Flavor: Mellow, Familiar, Sweet
Chinese (Tung Hing) Cinnamon Flavor: Warm, Balanced
Today, just as was done for thousands of years, farmers first remove the outer bark off the trees, then shave off the delicious inner bark. This is the first step in Cinnamon’s journey to our shelves and your kitchen. The bark is dried over the course of about a week, during which time it curls into the familiar shape of cinnamon sticks.
Though a lot has changed in the world since the days of the ancient Spice Trade, some things have not. Cinnamon is still shipped by boat, making the long journey from local producers and distributers in Sri Lanka, China, and Indonesia to New York.
From there, the cinnamon is shipped directly to our warehouse in Denver, Colorado by plane.
Saigon and Organic Ceylon come in as large “chips” of bark, while the Indonesian arrives as sticks. The bark and sticks are then ground down in small batches weekly at our warehouse in Denver to the fine powder you are familiar with.
We even have a small room dedicated entirely to grinding cinnamon, since the process imparts an explosive, delicious powder on everything (and everyone) nearby.
Sticks and Chips
The Saigon variety also gets broken up into smaller chips that are perfect for flavoring drinks or for grinding your own fresh and potent cinnamon.
Indonesian and Ceylon Cinnamon Sticks are also available for purchase. Cinnamon sticks are ideal for mulled cider or wine, but try using one to stir your tea or hot chocolate!
To Your Kitchen
The ground cinnamon, cinnamon sticks and chips are then stocked in our warehouse and shipped in small batches to our stores nationwide.
As with all our products, we pack and label each jar of cinnamon by hand in each store and here in Denver for internet orders. Cinnamon is our most popular spice and it doesn’t stay on the shelves long.
My mom taught me to simmer cinnamon sticks, orange peels, and nutmeg to make the ultimate holiday fragrance bomb before having guests over. What are your most treasured uses for cinnamon? Share them in the comments below and make sure your cabinet is stocked up on this spice essential.