The name cinnamon comes from the Indonesian words "kayu manis" (derived originally from ancient Sanskrit) which mean “sweet wood”.
Cinnamon is grown across Asia. Fine cinnamon is actually the peeled inner bark of the cinnamon plant, which is part of the Laurel family. The two most highly prized types are Ceylon cinnamon, which is grown as a tall bush in Sri Lanka, and Saigon cinnamon, which is grown as a tree in Vietnam. Supermarket cinnamon generally comes from Indonesia or China.
In both cases the cinnamon is nurtured according to age-old natural farming methods and is harvested skillfully by hand. The thin inner bark is peeled off the cinnamon branch or trunk after the rainy season when it’s soft. The bark then curls as it dries. (You can watch a Sri Lankan master peeler on the Main FAQ page.)
In botanical terms, Ceylon cinnamon is true cinnamon (cinnamomum verum) while Saigon cinnamon is actually cassia (cinnamomum cassia).
Ceylon cinnamon has a light yellowish brown colour while Saigon cinnamon is darker and redder. Ceylon cinnamon is rolled into finely layered quills resembling a cigar, whereas Saigon cinnamon, being a thicker single piece of rolled inner bark, is curled into a circular tube (or into the figure 3, which brings luck). Actually, if you look at the two types of cinnamon together, they are very easy to tell apart.
Ceylon cinnamon has a subtle, warm, citrusy aroma and a delicately sweet flavour whereas Saigon cinnamon has a hotter, sweeter, more peppery taste. Apple pie with Ceylon cinnamon tastes quite different from apple pie with Saigon cinnamon so you may want to experiment. (You can watch a video of people tasting freshly grated cinnamon for the first time on our Sticks page.)
The stamp on each Cinnamon Hill box of cinnamon marks the date on which the cinnamon was harvested before being peeled into quills and packed.
The timing of the harvests depends on the monsoon rains. In general, the harvest in Vietnam occurs in May/Jun while in Sri Lanka it continues intermittently throughout the year.
Be sure to sign up for our Harvest Alert (at the bottom of this page) to be notified of fresh harvests as they arrive.
Our cinnamon sticks are individually wrapped in biodegradable cellophane to keep their full aroma and flavour.
It’s hard to test but our own estimate is that, if properly sealed, fresh Ceylon cinnamon is at its tastiest for about one year, while fresh Saigon cinnamon retains its strong taste for at least 18 months. Once unwrapped, the sticks obviously lose their freshness more quickly.
Fresh cinnamon is best stored in a cool, dry place. Ideally, keep one cinnamon stick close to hand for everyday use – it won’t last long – and store the rest unopened in a cupboard. All our packaging materials are biodegradable.
Being a natural product, cinnamon sticks vary a little in size, but generally each one will provide between 2-3 teaspoons or 4-5 grams of powder. Any leftover stick can be used to add flavour to your gravy or spice up a hot drink.
Good, fresh cinnamon has a strong taste and you may find you can use a bit less than the recipe says, especially in the case of Saigon cinnamon.
No and no. The main reason is that the grater only works with fresh cinnamon. Stale supermarket cinnamon splinters on it. Similarly, fresh cinnamon, especially fresh Ceylon cinnamon, can’t be grated on a microplane. Fresh Ceylon cinnamon can be ground in an electric spice grinder but fresh Saigon cinnamon will break an electric spice grinder.
We source our Saigon and Ceylon cinnamon sticks from regional collectors in Vietnam and Sri Lanka, who source them directly from the local farmers. It's not possible for us to monitor work practices all the way back to original source. However, we have seen for ourselves how the farmer producers in both Vietnam and Sri Lanka work as a family unit on their own smallholdings and we think there’s little danger of exploitation in these cases.
In Sri Lanka we hire people under contract to harvest and process the organic cinnamon for our Ceylon cinnamon capsules and the oil for our Canelle Spray mosquito repellent. Everyone who works on the estate is well looked after. We take health and safety very seriously and do not employ anyone under 18.