Cinnamon (/ˈsɪnəmən/ sin-ə-mən) is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several tree species from the genus Cinnamomum. Cinnamon is used in both sweet and savoury foods. The term “cinnamon” also refers to its mid-brown colour.
Cinnamomum verum is sometimes considered to be “true cinnamon“, but most cinnamon in international commerce is derived from related species, also referred to as “cassia” to distinguish them from “true cinnamon”.
Cinnamon is the name for perhaps a dozen species of trees and the commercial spice products that some of them produce. All are members of the genus Cinnamomum in the family Lauraceae. Only a few Cinnamomum species are grown commercially for spice.
The English word “cinnamon”, attested in English since the 15th century, derives from the Greek κιννάμωμον kinnámōmon (later kínnamon), via Latin and medieval French intermediate forms. The Greek was borrowed from a Phoenician word, which was similar to the related Hebrew qinnamon.
The name “cassia”, first recorded in English around AD 1000, was borrowed via Latin and ultimately derives from Hebrew q’tsīʿāh, a form of the verb qātsaʿ, “to strip off bark”.
Early Modern English also used the names canel and canella, similar to the current names of cinnamon in several other European languages, which are derived from the Latin word cannella, a diminutive of canna, “tube”, from the way the bark curls up as it dries.
Aggregate annual production of cinnamon and cassia amounts to 27,500–35,000 tons, worldwide. Of this, C. verum accounts for 7,500–10,000 tons of production, with the remainder produced by other species. Sri Lanka produces 80–90% of the world’s supply of C. verum, but that is the only species grown there; C. verum is also cultivated on a commercial scale in Seychelles and Madagascar. Global production of the other species averages 20,000–25,000 tons, of which Indonesia produces around two-thirds of the total, with significant production in China. India and Vietnam are also minor producers.
Cinnamon is cultivated by growing the tree for two years, then coppicing it, i.e., cutting the stems at ground level. The following year, about a dozen new shoots form from the roots, replacing those that were cut. A number of pests such as Colletotrichum gloeosporioides, Diplodia spp., and Phytophthora cinnamomi (stripe canker) can affect that growing plants.
The stems must be processed immediately after harvesting while the inner bark is still wet. The cut stems are processed by scraping off the outer bark, then beating the branch evenly with a hammer to loosen the inner bark, which is then pried off in long rolls. Only 0.5 mm (0.02 in) of the inner bark is used; the outer, woody portion is discarded, leaving metre-long cinnamon strips that curl into rolls (“quills”) on drying. The processed bark dries completely in four to six hours, provided it is in a well-ventilated and relatively warm environment. Once dry, the bark is cut into 5- to 10-cm (2- to 4-in) lengths for sale. A less than ideal drying environment encourages the proliferation of pests in the bark, which may then require treatment by fumigation. Fumigated bark is not considered to be of the same premium quality as untreated bark.