Thai cinnamon (Cinnamomum iners, Lauraceae) grows commonly in the national parks surrounding Chiang Mai here in northern Thailand. We have two specimens here at Dokmai Garden, and today the garden school students tried the properties of its bark.
A few days ago we simply cut some young branches and shaved off the bark. The shavings were sun-dried for four hours and this morning we ground the shavings using a coffee grinder. We then added 1, 2, 3 and 6 ml to 50 ml (0.5 dl) of hot water and waited a couple of minutes. The flavour was agreeable, best at 2-3 ml, 6 ml did not add much to the experience. We also tried to add various amounts to coffee using different combinations with milk and sugar, concluding the tea was best. However, the tea soon turned jelly-like.
It is said that Thai cinnamon (also known as wild cinnamon, chiat, marobo, namog, da ye gui etc etc) is ‘an inferior substitute’ of real cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum). I disagree. These are two different products and so you do not replace mandarin with lemon. The bark of Thai cinnamon has a fragrance resembling mint, camphor, black pepper and a touch of classical cinnamon. It has been attributed several medicinal properties (anti cancer, antiseptic, pain relief, anti oxidant) but it is hard to evaluate the scientific papers. It is traditionally used by Chinese and Indians. Most importantly, it is not dangerous and it is agreeable, even causing euphoria (my experience).
If you do not want your tea to turn into slime you should only add 2 ml of powder in 0.5 dl of water and drink while hot within five minutes. Since it has antiseptic properties it could be a good drink if you have a sore throat (antiseptic, pain relief, hot, refreshing and easy to swallow due to the increasing viscosity). Visitors to Dokmai Garden in Chiang Mai will be offered this drink upon request.
Continued experiments show that the jelly is permanent and so maybe an interesting garden substitute for agar, an expensive ingredient when making nutrient media for orchid seeds.
(Photo Eric Danell).
(Photo Ilkka Suominen).
Text: Eric Danell