Indonesian Cinnamon Chips, Cinnamomum burmannii, from the family Lauraceae is closely related to avocado, bay laurel, Vietnamese cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon. Also known as Cassia Cinnamon Chips or Cracked Cassia Cinnamon.
Indonesian cinnamon was first cultivated in West Sumatra in the region around the city Padang. 85% of the cinnamon in today's world market originates from Indonesia. Most of it grows in the western part of the island of Sumatra, also known as Sumatra Barat, the geography of this region is laced with hilly rainforests and active volcanoes.
Surprisingly, Indonesians do not use cinnamon frequently. It is used in some sweets and is added in small amounts to some dishes including a spicy beef stew called "rending".
Indonesian Cinnamon is also called Guang dong gui or Shan yu gui (Chinese), Cannelle de Padang (French), Pandang Zimt or Indonesischer Zimt (German), Kayo Manis Padang (Indonesian), Falsa Canforeira (Portuguese) and Canela de Java (Spanish). In this country it is called Korintje, Batavia cassia or Padang cassia.
Most languages do not have different words for the various types of cinnamon. For Ceylon Cinnamon, names are some version of "canela" and for Indonesian, Vietnamese and Chinese Cinnamon are some version of "cassia". The name cassia derives from Greek "kasia" which is thought to be a loan word from Semitic traders (3500 to 3170 BC) of ancient Egypt. While the exact origin of the word is not clear, it is possible that the name, like the spice, is probably indigenous to China. Some food historians believe that the word cassia might be related to the name of the Khasi people, an indigenous tribe with the majority of its people living in the north eastern part of India and western Bangladesh.
In Classical antiquity (8th century BC to 5th century AD), four types of cinnamon were mentioned and often used interchangeably - Ceylon, Cinnamomum iners (a Cassia from Arabia and Ethiopia), Cinnamomum malabathrum (a Cassia from northern India) and Cinnamomum aromaticum (a Cassia from China). Southeast Asian and Chinese cassia cinnamon was well known in the Far East in ancient times. Cinnamon is mentioned in the oldest long poem in Chinese literature, the Li Sao or Lament, written in the 4th century BC by the Chinese poet and minister Qu Yuan (340-278 BC).
In the Middle Ages (400-1400), the originating source of cinnamon was a mystery to Europe. Venetian traders from Italy had a monopoly on the spice trade in Europe, and they received their supply of cinnamon from Arab traders in Alexandria, Egypt. The secret trade routes into Egypt were ultimately disrupted by the rise of Mediterranean powers such as the Mamluks Sultans (who ruled much of Egypt, the Levant, and Hejaz from 1250-1517) and the Ottoman Empire (who came to power in Turkey in 1299). This led to spice shortages and rapidly rising prices in Europe, which became one of the driving factors that led the Spanish and Portuguese to begin exploring sea routes to Asia.
Cinnamon trees in Indonesia grow to a height of about 30 feet and they have a heavy, thick bark. The young leaves are red in color and lance-shaped, and turn green as they mature. At this time there is a noticeable scent of cinnamon in the air. The fertile soils on the slopes of West Sumatra are ideal for growing cassia trees since they grow best at an altitude of between 2,500 and 5,000 feet above sea level. A tree needs to be at least 8 years old before it can be harvested, and the older the tree, the higher the volatile oil in the bark. Higher VO results in a stronger flavor.
During harvest, the branches are chopped off and entire trees are cut down. Young trees (of about 8-10 years of age) yield about 11 pounds of dry cinnamon. When trees are harvested at this age, the tree's thin bark naturally curls into tight rolls which are frequently sold as "cinnamon sticks".
Similar to bamboo, cinnamon is an inherently sustainable crop. Cinnamon forests grow naturally, without the aid of agrochemicals, and are intermingled with other trees. New Cinnamon trees regenerate from the root stump for a few generations. And since the farmers are cultivating the bark of the tree and not a fruit, they can harvest the trees during any time of the year. Generally, trees are harvested twice a year after a heavy rain.
Ceylon cinnamon is considered by many to have the best flavor, especially in Europe and Mexico. In America, cassia's stronger flavor is more popular, although many bakers prefer Ceylon cinnamon's flavor.
Indonesian cinnamon has a stronger aroma and a spicy flavor. Ceylon Cinnamon features a deeply complex yet subtle flavor that is warm and sweet with hints of citrus and cloves. Vietnamese cinnamon has a spicy sweet flavor and Chinese cinnamon has a spicy bitter flavor.
Indonesian cinnamon has a thick quill (1/32" to 1/3"), the outer color is reddish-brown and the inner bark is a dark grayish-brown. Ceylon cinnamon's quills are much more fragile and much thinner (often less than 1/32" thick) with a light reddish-brown color. Vietnamese cinnamon has quills that are a bit thinner than Indonesian cinnamon, with a color that more resembles Chinese cinnamon. Chinese cinnamon has an uneven and rough outer bark with a dark brown color. It is rarely sold in quills, as it is harvested in bark chunks that are very thick (1/3" to 4/10").
Our Cassia Cinnamon Chips are not a sweet cooking chip like you would think of chocolate chips, these are used as a convenient way to infuse the flavor and aroma of cinnamon into mulling spices, tea blends and pickling spice blends.