Cinnamon is a valuable spice that is obtained from the
bark of an evergreen tree (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) that
belongs to the Laurel family. Cinnamon is native to Sri
Lanka, Myanmar (Burma) and the southern coastal strip
of India. The crop now grows in South America and the
West Indies, the Seychelles and Reunion. The best
quality cinnamon is produced in Sri Lanka.
Cassia, which is the bark of the evergreen tree
Cinnamomum cassia, is a similar spice to cinnamon but
of an inferior quality. It is a native of Myanmar (Burma).
Most of the world’s cassia comes from China, Indochina,
Indonesia, the East and West Indies and Central America.
Cassia bark is coarser and less fragrant than cinnamon
and is sometimes used as a substitute.
Figure 1: Cinnamon from Sri
Lanka. Photo credit: Practical Action
/ Neil Noble
Cinnamon gets its distinctive smell and aroma from a volatile oil that is in the bark. The oil can
be distilled from off-grade bark, leaves and roots.
Cinnamon must be dried before it is stored and sold for market. This brief outlines the important
steps that should be taken pre-harvest and post-harvest to ensure that the dried cinnamon is of
top quality for the market.
The cinnamon tree is a bushy evergreen tree that is cultivated as low bushes (about 2-3m tall) to
make harvesting easier. The bushes grow well in shaded places with an average rainfall and
without extremes of temperature. The optimum temperature for production is between 27 and
30°C. The soil should not be waterlogged as this produces a bitter-tasting bark. Eight or ten side
branches grow on the bush and these are harvested after about three years to obtain the
Cinnamon bark is harvested twice a year immediately after each of the rainy seasons when the
humidity makes the bark peel more easily. The trees are first harvested when they are three years
old, one year after pruning. The side stems that are about three years old are removed and the
bark is stripped off. Cinnamon bark is only obtained from stems that are between 1.2 and 5cm in
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