Ceylon Cinnamon History

Ceylon Cinnamon History

Here we will discuss the evolution of Ceylon cinnamon from ancient times to colonial plantations to the current state of the industry.

Ancient Times

Ceylon cinnamon has been used for hundreds of years, if not centuries. Earlier, it was used in the middle east for health problems. Ancients Egyptians used it as a logo, and even in the Bible, references of Ceylon cinnamon are given. In proverb 7:17, it says, “I have sprinkled my bed With myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon“.

Everyone knows that Ceylon cinnamon comes from a tiny island of Sri Lanka located at the tip of India. It said that Emperor Nero, as an extravagant gesture meant to signify the depth of his loss, burnt a year’s worth of the city’s supply at the funeral for his wife Poppaea Sabina in A.D. 65. However, it was too expensive to be commonly used.

Before the founding of Cairo, Alexandria was the Mediterranean shipping port of cinnamon. Europeans who knew of the Latin writers who were quoting Herodotus, and knew that this spice came up the Red Sea, but did not know whether it was from Ethiopia or not. When Sieur de Joinville accompanied his king to Egypt on a crusade in 1248, he stated that he had been told that cinnamon came from nets at the source of the Nile out at the edge of the world. The first reference to the spice growing in Sri Lanka was in the “Monument of Places and History of God’s Bondsmen” (Zakariya al-Qazvin’s Athar al-bilad wa-akhbar al-‘ibad) in about 1270. This was followed shortly after by John of Montecorvino, in a letter dated around 1292.

Rafts, known in Indonesia as kayu manis – literally “sweet wood”, transported cinnamon via a “cinnamon route” directly to East Africa. Traders then carried it north to the Roman markets, and  Arab traders conveyed the spice to Alexandria in Egypt, where Venetian traders then bought it from Italy. When other Mediterranean powers rose to power and disrupted the trade, many factors led Europeans to search more widely for different trade routes to Asia.


The Portuguese 

When the Portuguese landed in Sri Lanka at the beginning of the sixteenth century, they managed to build the whole new structure of production.

They established a fort on the island in 1518 and protected their monopoly for almost 100 years.

The Dutch 

With the help of the inland Kingdom of Kandy, Dutch traders dislodged the Portuguese. They established a trading post in 1638, and in 1640 they took control of the companies; by the end of 1658, they had expelled all of the remaining Portuguese.

The East India Company continued to learn all of the harvesting methods in the wild and eventually began to cultivate its own trees.

The British 

The British also step in the cultivation of Ceylon cinnamon after the success of Dutch and Portuguese.

The British learned more rapidly; therefore, they soon took control of the companies, which were under the power of the Dutch.

Due to the spreading of Ceylon cinnamon trees, the importance of the monopoly of Ceylon started to decline. According to a report on Wikipedia, coffee, tea, sugar, and chocolate began to outstrip the popularity of traditional species.


Now, once again, Ceylon cinnamon is gaining importance due to its incredible health properties. Classic cinnamon has a high level of coumarin, which is very harmful to the liver. Therefore, the composition of Ceylon cinnamon has a much higher level, especially when the oil is derived from the wall and leaves of the tree.

Growing Regions

Sri Lanka is the place where Ceylon cinnamon grows a lot because of its sandy soils and the weather conditions in the country. The largest bulk of Ceylon cinnamon is produced in the Emblazoneda area of Sri Lanka.


Smallholders still own Ceylon Cinnamon farms. This is a legacy of the Dutch, who divided the land into smaller plots so that Sri Lankans would cultivate and sell them the cinnamon. Unlike Sri Lanka, which only has a few large-scale Ceylon Cinnamon farms. That means the use of pesticides is limited, even though the Ceylon Cinnamon tree is not affected by blight.

Only the Ceylon Cinnamon bark and dried leaves are sold to a processor in the village. The processor will then peel and craft the cinnamon sticks. Other processors only make other products, including essential oils, which are typically made using a traditional steam distilling machine.

After the cinnamon is processed, it is sold to lcoal traders which then sold traders and brokers who then either distribute it locally or export it.

Cinnamon Quality Control 

The Sri Lanka government has made many attempts to reform the Ceylon industry to a much larger scale.

Considerable development in this regard is that of the Ceylon cinnamon research station close to Mantra that has been developed. Here at this research station, they are advancing cinnamon strains to increase the quality and oil content. This is not GMO nor genetic modification. These are cinnamon plants have been cross-bred to produce more robust plants. The station has also developed new tools and chairs to make the peeling of cinnamon easier. They also have a training facility where students are taught how to peel Ceylon Cinnamon. Also, the Sri Lankan government has introduced new standards for cinnamon exports called the SLS-81 Standards, which aim to set benchmarks for quality. This is because there is still much fraud within the Cinnamon industry, with growers and processors attempting to sell inferior quality, Ceylon Cinnamon.