The Tale of
The historical records of Cinnamon run back to the age of ancient Egypt as early as 2000 BC. Back then Cinnamon was reckoned to be a gift fit only for the monarch and the deity. A fine inscription records that Cinnamon was a pious gift presented to the temple of Apollo at Miletus. Cinnamon has been an antique herb, a preservative and a key ingredient in the Egyptian mummification process. Even the Holy Bible alludes to Cinnamon in proverb 7:17 when it says "I have sprinkled my bed With myrrh, aloes and cinnamon ".
The origin of this divine herb was a mystery and a well kept secret by the ancient Arab traders to maintain monopoly and to justify its exorbitant price. They fabricated stories on the rarity of Cinnamon and the intricacy of obtaining them. One such story is alluded in a script of the Greek historian Herodotus. According to the story, enormous birds carried the cinnamon sticks to their nests perched high atop mountains that were insurmountable by any human. People would leave large pieces of ox meat below these nests for the birds to collect. When the birds brought the meat into the nest, its weight would cause the nests to fall to the ground, allowing the cinnamon sticks stored within to be collected.
There was an incessant search for the pais de la canela or “cinnamon country” by the Europeans when the traditional “Cinnamon Route” from Indonesia was obstructed by rising Mediterranean powers, such as the Mamluk Sultans and the Ottoman Empire. The local traders from Indonesia who traversed the Cinnamon Route (from the Moluccas to East Africa) earlier was said to trade Cinnamon in the Roman markets, creating a venetian cinnamon monopoly in Europe.
The honor of discovering this enigmatic pais de la canela goes to Portuguese traders at the beginning of 15th century. The Cinnamon Country which they discovered was none other than Sri Lanka - the little island beneath the tip of India which Arab traders called Serendib and the Europeans called Ceylon. For over hundred years Portuguese maintained a monopoly in Ceylon Cinnamon trade to Europe until Dutch traders dislodged them in early 16th century.