Procedure of Processing Cinnamon

Procedure of Processing Cinnamon
by Samson Field

In the course of transporting, bleaching and grading the quills, some breakage takes place; the broken lengths and fragments of quills of all grades are bulked, packed in bales of 100 lb (45 kg) and are sold as quillings.

The stripped stem is next rubbed briskly with a heavy brass rod to loosen the inner bark. The removal of the inner bark is undertaken by the men using a small rounded knife with a point on one to facilitate ripping. The knife is made of brass or stainless steel since other metals are said to stain the bark. Two cuts are made round the stem about 30 cm apart and two longitudinal slits are made on opposite sides of the stern. The inner bark is then carefully eased off the wood with the pointed side of the knife. The alternative approach to peeling involves removing the outer and inner bark in one step, in two rectangular pieces using the pointed knife and the rubbing rod.

The strips are then packed together in bunches, wrapped in matting and are left overnight; by this means they are kept moist and undergo a slight fermentation. This facilitates the subsequent scraping off of the epidermis, cork and the green cortex with the curved knife on the following day.

Plant Stuff

The oleoresin is sold per se as a liquid or dispersed on sugar, rusk or salt. Cinnamon bark oil is produced by steam- or hydro-distillation with cohobation, and solvent extraction of the distillate water is desirable to obtain the best quality of oil. The finest cinnamon bark oils are produced from selected materials (high-grade cinnamon quills) in the USA and Western Europe by steam distillation using modern equipment. English distilled oils contain about 60 per cent of cinnamaldehyde and about 10 per cent eugenol, and they generally possess a lower specific gravity than oils distilled on the Continent and in the USA.

The compound quills are then rolled by hand to press the outside edges together and the ends are neatly trimmed with a pair of scissors. Drying is accomplished in the shade as direct exposure to the sun at this stage can result in warping. The quills are commonly spread out for air-drying on a rush mat suspended under the roof of the peeling shed.

In Sri Lanka, hydro-distillation of chips and variable amounts of featherings, quillings and wild cinnamon bark (`pathura’) is the usual practice. There were 19 distillation units in Sri Lanka, many of which were old and locally assembled. Most stills were small, constructed from copper, lined with lead, built into a stone hearth, and heated by direct fire, fuelled usually with old rubber trees. Some 23 to 27 kg of chips and 180 to 225 litres of water are charged into the stills and distilled for 5 hours. The oil which distils over in two fractions, one lighter and one heavier than water, is separated from the distillation waters in a series of five Florentine flasks, the residual waters from one distillation being collected and used in the next batch. The oil yield is of the order of 0.2 per cent.

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