All About Cinnamon

Cinnamon sticks are properly called quills and true cinnamon is easily distinguished from cassia when in quill form.  After harvesting and drying, cinnamon quills curl tightly while the much harder cassia has a looser, scroll-like curl.  True cinnamon is a tan colour compared to the dark red-brown of cassia. 

                         True Cinnamon                                  Cassia

Contrary to what many think, cinnamon is not a tree but an evergreen bush, which prefers direct sun and consistent warm temperatures (27C to 30C). Terroir is as important with cinnamon as with wine and if you ever encounter bitter cinnamon you will know the soil in which it was grown was allowed to become waterlogged. 

Cinnamon is generally harvested twice a year following a rainy season when the moisture facilitates peeling. Cinnamon should optimally be obtained from branches between 1.2cm and 5cm in diameter.

How Cinnamon is Harvested 

  1. Tender stems (diameter of less than 1.2cm) removed and recycled;
  2. Bark from branches with diameters greater than 5cm are  used for oil distillation;
  3. Outer bark removed with fine, claw knife;
  4. Branch stripped of outer bark is rubbed with a brass rod to loosen the inner bark.  Brass is used to prevent discolourations caused by other metals;
  5. Incisions are made around the branch every 30cm with a small paring knife or razor - stainless steel also avoids discolouration;
  6. Long longitudinal cuts are then made along the branch and the inner bark carefully removed with the assistance of the paring knife and rod;
  7. The pieces of removed bark are laid one inside another to make long compound quills (up to 1m long);
  8. The compound quills are placed on rope racks and dried in shade; then
  9. After four to five days of drying, the quills are rolled on a board to tighten and placed in indirect sunlight for further drying.