Wednesday, 18 March 2015 07:21

How Ceylon Cinnamon was produced and graded.

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Cinnamon is the dried bark of the perennial tree of Cennamomum zeylanicum of the Lauraceae family. True Cinnamon is native to spice island (Sri Lanka). Cinnamon is originally grown wild in central hill country of Sri Lanka. The history of cinnamon dates back to about 2800 B.C where it can be found referenced as Kwai in Chinese writings . But cinnamon is even mentioned in the Bible when Moses used it as an ingredient for his anointing oil in ancient Rome. Cinnamon was a precious spice in the west during 14th - 15th centuries and it’s primary use was to preserve meat and to retard the growth of bacteria. By that time the real cinnamon was produced in only the place, named as Ceylon or Spice Island. Portuguese traders made their way to Ceylon in the 15th century, enslaved the natives and had the control of the trades from Arabs. Since 1815 the British took the control of the island and cinnamon trade too was moved to their hands.

The best historical evidence about the Cinnamon trade in Sri Lanka is found in up country Dutch agreement (Hanguranketha Agreement) signed in 14th February 1766 between the former King of Sri Lanka Sri Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe and the Dutch government. Sri Lankan Cinnamon also known as Pure Ceylon Cinnamon is considered as the True Cinnamon, which is broadly used in both sweet and savory food and beverages industries all around the world, and only grown in Sri Lanka.

In Spice Island, Cinnamon seems to have originated in the central hills where seven wild species of cinnamon occur in Kandy, Matale, Belihulloya, Haputale, Horton Planes and the Sinharaja Forest range. Presently cultivation concentrated along the costal belt from Negombo to Matara it has also made inroads to Kalutara and Rathnapura.

Then we can find different varieties of Ceylon cinnamon. There are eight cinnamon species in Sri Lanka. Among them only Cinnamomum zeylancium blume is grown commercially in tradition. There were several types of cinnamon categorized based on taste of the bark, “Pani -Miris Kurundu “ was the best with sweet - Pungent taste and “Miris-Kurundu”, “Sevel Kurundu” are the others. Currently ten cinnamon accessions have been identified based on yield and quality performances and best two lines, named as “Sri Vijaya” and “Sri Gamunu” were released.

During the harvesting time, the branches are chopped off and entire tress are cut down. The outer bark is peeled off revealing an inner bark, the cinnamon, which curls into a quills as it dries. First harvest of cinnamon can be taken after three years of planting and two harvests can be taken per year. Harvesting is done when the bark colour of the stem turn in to brown and stick diameter is about 3 - 5cm. Branches and leaves are removed from harvested sticks before peeling and harvested stem should be peeled on the same day. During peeling outer skin is scrapped and rubs the bark with a brass rod to be loosened bark from the hard wood. Then peel the bark, part by part, with a special knife and peeled bark is allowed to dry under sun for few hours and when rolling of the bark starts, pieces of bark are connected together and to make a pipe like structure and the standard length of the tube is 42 inches. The hollow of the tube is filled with small pieces of stem and the tubes are left for indoor drying for about 4-7 days. While Ceylon Cinnamon sticks are all made the same way, they are graded according to colour, density, blemishes, essential oil content and other factors .True Ceylon Cinnamon sticks are golden in color and is made up multiple thin slivers of cinnamon bark rolled into a cigar shaped cinnamon sticks. Each individual True Ceylon Cinnamon stick is handcrafted and hand rolled with immaculate skilful technique to perfection. Peeling cinnamon is an art and each cinnamon stick is carefully hand rolled to different cinnamon grades. Ceylon cinnamon sticks are also known as quills. After harvesting and drying, Cinnamon quills curl while the much harder Cassia has a single scroll like curl. Ceylon Cinnamon (True Cinnamon) has a tan color compared to the dark red brown of Cassia Cinnamon. In Sri Lanka, minimal foxing is called “Malkorahedi” while heavy foxing is called “Korahedi”. Whether a cinnamon sticks is called “Malkorahedi” Or “Korahedi” is based on the extent of the foxing patches. Each grades of cinnamon has certain foxing specifications.

According to the spice council of Sri Lanka SLS-81 standard Cinnamon can should have a maximum moisture content of 15%. Ideally it should be less than this, the essential oils in cinnamon sticks which determines the aroma, is specified at a minimum of 1%. Cinnamon quills, with standard lengths and diameters are made out of Ceylon cinnamon - grown and manufactured solely in Sri Lanka. Ceylon Cinnamon is categorised into four major grades as Alba, Continental, Mexican and Hamburg based on the diameter of the quills, where the most expensive (Alba) has a 6mm diameter quill.
Ceylon Cinnamon Grades
- Alba : It is a prized grade of Ceylon cinnamon that is by – far the most expensive. It is slender and brittle and abounds with a sweet taste, pleasant aroma and a powerful flavour.
- SPL : The 2nd best quality after Alba which has a better taste with an absolute taste.
- C5 : This grade of Ceylon Cinnamon is highly sought after its character, taste, smell and excellent flavour.
- C4 : This grade is in highly demanded for its smoothness, exquisite fragrance, pale, tan yellow colour and sweet taste. 16mm in diameter.
- M5 : It is relatively rougher in texture and thinner in appearance.
- M4 : This is made up of chosen parts of high quality cinnamon.
- H1 : Comprise the finest and the most expensive portions of the rough cinnamon bark. Most popular in the South American market.
- H2 : Comprise the sorted portions of the rough cinnamon bark. Thicker than H1 grade. Consists of golden yellow cinnamon quills of high quality.
- Quilling No 1 & No 2 : This grade consists lager a smaller quillings respectively which are collected as a rest of cutting and bailing cinnamon

It is the story of True Ceylon Cinnamon from the day of planting to the final product in Sri Lanka.

Written by :
Ms. H P D Thathsarani,
Higher National Diploma in Agriculture Production Technology (Reading),
Aquinas College of Higher Studies, Sri Lanka.

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Read 7694 times Last modified on Tuesday, 25 January 2022 05:37
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