Madagascar is one of two countries outside of Sri Lanka where true Ceylon cinnamon grows, the second being Seychelles. The plant, scientifically named Cinnamomum Zeylanicum or Cinnamomum verum, was probably introduced by sailors crossing the Indian Ocean on their trading routes.
The export of Madagascar cinnamon was temporarily halted in mid 1990s because of over harvesting, by which the complete stem and root were used. As farmers have since been tought sustainable cinnamon farming methods, not to harvest the complete tree and roots, enough trees recovered and the ban has been lifted and production and export has resumed. In 2011, Madagascar produced 2,300 metric tons of cinnamon, approximately 1.1% of the world production.
Cinnamon is the inner bark of the cinnamon tree, which grows eight to 10 metres tall. Harvesting us usually done after the rainy season while the bark is moist and rich in flavour and essential oils.
Madagascar's cinnamon has perhaps the lowest amount of coumarin contents compared to other cinnamon. Coumarin is a slightly toxic substance, which is best avoided if taking cinnamon as a health supplement, in tea etc. Cinnamon is used in a wide variety of traditional medecines, and of course in cooking, especially in desserts, cinnamon rolls and many other sweets, coffee, chocolate, rhum etc.
Madagascar's and Ceylon cinnamon alike should not be mixed up with Cinnamomum Cassia, commonly known as Chinese cinnamon. It is easy to tell the difference between Madagascar and Chinese cinnamon. Madagascar is sweet. citrusy and delicate in comparison to Chinese cinnamon is strong and peppary. The bark of Cassia is strong and rough while Madagascar cinnamon is smooth, lighter in colour, crumbly and rolled like a cigar. Cassia cinnamon are hollow, with usually only one rolled or curled layer.
There are many other types of cinnamon but only four commercial varieties. In addition to Ceylon and Cassia, there are also Saigon and Korintje, the latter two being classified as Cassia.