Which aromas conjure up Christmas for you? Regardless of when I smell them the scent of certain spices are guaranteed to fast-track me to mid-December, like stepping into an aromatic Tardis. Taking centre stage in my festive aromatic spice rack is cinnamon.
This spice is firmly rooted in history. The Ancient Egyptians used it as an embalming ingredient for mummifying their dead and added it to Kyphi, the famous and somewhat mysterious perfume used for both religious and medicinal purposes. Cinnamon is mentioned in the Bible’s Old Testament and was traded along the Silk Road, the ancient commerce route established by the Chinese Han Dynasty. Hailing from Sri Lanka, India and South East Asia Cinnamon was prized as a valuable commodity by Arab traders, the Greeks, Romans, Portuguese and Dutch, amongst others. By Medieval times soldiers returning from the Crusades are rumoured to have landed on British shores carrying exotic spices in their luggage. Slowly cinnamon, this highly prized and once extremely valuable spice, became a key ingredient of European festive cuisine. Today, Christmas just wouldn’t taste, or smell, the same without it.