Broken sticks of spicy cinnamon in black tea
Cinnamon has never failed to be a creative inspiration down the ages. References to cinnamon are found everywhere to this day in popular music, such as here, here and here.
In the Victorian language of flowers a gift of cinnamon meant, “My fortune is yours”. In ancient times this was almost literally true as cinnamon was incredibly pricy.
Nonetheless, Europeans have been entranced by the spice for thousands of years, even though it is native only to Sri Lanka. In ancient times, when Sri Lanka was completely unknown to Europe, cinnamon was shipped all the way to Egypt by Indian ships, and then peddled in Greek and Roman towns on the Mediterranean. The Egyptian traders jealously guarded the secret of how they obtained this ‘sweet wood’, leaving Europeans speculating wildly. One idea was that cinnamon sticks were found floating high up the Nile, where the Ethiopians fished them out with nets.
The traders themselves had their own explanation. According to them, cinnamon was found on a remote island ruled by terrifying giant birds, man-eating birds, you see, which gathered the cinnamon sticks from parts unknown to make their nests. The traders risked their lives to snatch it from the nests of these dreaded Cinnamon Birds – and this, they claimed, was why they had to charge an equally daunting price.
Luckily, cinnamon is easier to come by these days, and we certainly don’t skimp in our own Cinnamon Tea. Pieces of real broken cinnamon spice up mellow black tea leaves to create the legendary aroma and flavour, prized by the ancients as an aphrodisiac; although let’s be honest, do you trust them now? This tea can either be drunk black or with a little milk, and even though we are often menaced by the Cinnamon Bird (especially when the price of milk goes up) this tea is quite reasonably priced.