Food & Beverage

Feb 29, 2016

The Luxury Spice

Cinnamon is used since the dawn of times, even Egyptians used it as early as 2,000 B.C. during the embalming process, as a perfuming agent. However, cinnamon was brought to Europe by Arab merchants, through intricate land routes, and would carry a limited and very expensive supply. They kept secret the origins of this spice until the 16th century, telling amazing and incredible stories and legends about how they acquired it, so as to keep the monopoly of this expensive luxury good. 

It was only around 1518 that Portuguese traders discovered cinnamon at Ceylon, present-day Sri-Lanka, and took control of the cinnamon trade for about a century. In 1638, the Ceylon kingdom of Kandy and the Dutch army allied, and overthrew the Portuguese occupiers, but the Dutch kept the kingdom, in debt for their military services. The cinnamon monopoly was now in their hands for the next 150 years.

By 1800, cinnamon was no longer an expensive, rare commodity, as it had begun to be cultivated in other parts of the world, and other delicacies such as chocolate and cassia began to rival it in popularity.

Cassia Co-op

Cassia Co-op is the first cinnamon processing and exporting company to set-up at the heart of the cinnamon plantations. About 85% of the cinnamon in today's world market originates from Indonesia, most of it grows in one unique area on the island of Sumatra, called Kerinci. This is the world's largest cassia plantation, and it is known for its high quality raw materiais. It is coincidentally also located at the center of Sumatra Island.

Mount Kerinci is the highest volcano in Indonesia, and the highest peak on the island of Sumatra, surrounded by cinnamon trees and the lush forest of Kerinci Seblat National Park, home to the endangered Sumatran Tiger. The fertile soils of the slopes of the Kerinci high valley are very suitable for growing cassia trees, since these grows best at an altitude of between 800 to 1,500 meters.

Cassia Co-op aims to export cinnamon products and patchouli oil from Indonesia while removing middlemen from the supply chain, thus linking farmers with end-users and vice versa in order to create transparency and interdependency. Also, they strive to create a fair and efficient supply chain while having a sustainable positive impact in Sumatra.

Farmers Capaciting

The Cassia Co-op Training Center is a place where farmers can learn about sustainable agriculture, quality control, certifications, consumer products and international markets. A robust Internal Control System (ICS) was implemented, and led to the first ever Rainforest Alliance certification for cinnamon. The program benefits the farmers, the company and the local environment. Each farmer's individual plot is carefully mapped, through GPS mapping, and audited to ensure that it does not overlap the Kerinci National Park, the largest Sumatran tiger habitat.

Through this training center, the company has brought to farmers an unprecedented level of training and transparency. In exchange for their support of the sustainable and traceability program, each farmer receives premium prices and bonuses for their raw material.


There are hundreds of types of Cinnamon, but only 4 are used for commercial purposes: Ceylon Cinnamon, Cassia Cinnamon, Saigon Cinnamon and Korintje Cinnamon.

Indonesian Korintje cassia has a stronger flavor than true cinnamon, with a sharp, bitter edge. It's often called the "regular" cinnamon. The Indonesian cassia is of the cinnamomum burmannii blum species, the botanical term is "cassia vera", while locally it is known as "kayu manis" (Indo), "sweet wood". Cassia, or Cinnamon, is the bark of the tree.

Powder and Sticks

Cassia Co-op products include standard cinnamon fine powders (60 mesh),Tea bag Cut (TBC, 18 mesh) and Cut & Sifted (C&S, 06 mesh) that meet most end-users' needs, as well as cinnamon sticks, in sizes that can be 6 cm, 7 cm, 8 cm, 12 cm and/or 25 cm.

Essential oil

As part of its sustainable approach, Cassia Co-op aims to use 100% of the cassia tree, so the company is starting to offer cinnamon essential oils. Oil can be extracted from the bark but also from the leaf. By producing oil in Kerinci, Cassia Co-op has also access to the abundant by-product timber generated by the cassia harvest. This bio and renewable energy completes the 100% recycling vision of Cassia Co-op.

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