Another great project and another great flavor!

We’re going to talk about Cinnamon A LOT: Why we’re working on it, what it’s set to achieve, how it works and how you can use, customize, extend, theme and improve it…. so before we get into this, and as it’s nearly Christmas already, let’s start with talking about the name itself.

Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several trees that is used in both sweet and savoury foods. Cinnamon trees are native to South East Asia, and its origin was a mystery to Europeans until the sixteenth century. It looks, smells and tastes fantastic …and it’s also full of history!


The name cinnamon comes from Hebrew and Phoenician through the Greek kinnámōmon. In several European languages, the word for cinnamon comes from the Latin word cannella, a diminutive of canna, “cane”.


Cinnamon has been known from remote antiquity. It was imported to Egypt as early as 2000 BC, but those who report that it had come from China confuse it with cassia.

The Hebrew Bible makes specific mention of the spice many times: first when Moses is commanded to use both sweet cinnamon (Hebrew: קִנָּמוֹן, qinnāmôn) and cassia in the holy anointing oil; in Proverbs where the lover’s bed is perfumed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon; and in Song of Solomon, a song describing the beauty of his beloved, cinnamon scents her garments like the smell of Lebanon. Cinnamon was a component of the Ketoret which is used when referring to the consecrated incense described in the Hebrew Bible and Talmud. It was offered on the specialized incense altar in the time when the Tabernacle was located in the First and Second Jerusalem Temples. The ketoret was an important component of the Temple service in Jerusalem.

It was so highly prized among ancient nations that it was regarded as a gift fit for monarchs and even for a god: a fine inscription records the gift of cinnamon and cassia to the temple of Apollo at Miletus. Though its source was kept mysterious in the Mediterranean world for centuries by the middlemen who handled the spice trade, to protect their monopoly as suppliers, cinnamon is native to Malabar Coast of India, Sri Lanka, Burma and Bangladesh. It is also alluded to by Herodotus and other classical writers. It was too expensive to be commonly used on funeral pyres in Rome, but the Emperor Nero is said to have burned a year’s worth of the city’s supply at the funeral for his wife Poppaea Sabina in AD 65.

Before the foundation of Cairo, Alexandria was the Mediterranean shipping port of cinnamon. Europeans who knew the Latin writers who were quoting Herodotus knew that cinnamon came up the Red Sea to the trading ports of Egypt, but whether from Ethiopia or not was less than clear. When the Sieur de Joinville accompanied his king to Egypt on crusade in 1248, he reported what he had been told—and believed—that cinnamon was fished up in nets at the source of the Nile out at the edge of the world. Through the Middle Ages, the source of cinnamon was a mystery to the Western world. Marco Polo avoided precision on this score. In Herodotus and other authors, Arabia was the source of cinnamon: giant Cinnamon birds collected the cinnamon sticks from an unknown land where the cinnamon trees grew and used them to construct their nests; the Arabs employed a trick to obtain the sticks. This story was current as late as 1310 in Byzantium, although in the first century, Pliny the Elder had written that the traders had made this up in order to charge more. The first mention of the spice growing in Sri Lanka was in Zakariya al-Qazwini’s Athar al-bilad wa-akhbar al-‘ibad (“Monument of Places and History of God’s Bondsmen”) in about 1270. This was followed shortly thereafter by John of Montecorvino, in a letter of about 1292.

Indonesian rafts transported cinnamon (known in Indonesia as kayu manis- literally “sweet wood”) on a “cinnamon route” directly from the Moluccas to East Africa, where local traders then carried it north to the Roman market.

Arab traders brought the spice via overland trade routes to Alexandria in Egypt, where it was bought by Venetian traders from Italy who held a monopoly on the spice trade in Europe. The disruption of this trade by the rise of other Mediterranean powers, such as the Mamluk Sultans and the Ottoman Empire, was one of many factors that led Europeans to search more widely for other routes to Asia.

Portuguese traders finally landed in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) at the beginning of the sixteenth century and restructured the traditional production and management of cinnamon by the Sinhalese, who later held the monopoly for cinnamon in Ceylon. The Portuguese established a fort on the island in 1518 and protected their own monopoly for over a hundred years.

Dutch traders finally dislodged the Portuguese by allying with the inland Kingdom of Kandy. They established a trading post in 1638, took control of the factories by 1640, and expelled all remaining Portuguese by 1658. “The shores of the island are full of it”, a Dutch captain reported, “and it is the best in all the Orient: when one is downwind of the island, one can still smell cinnamon eight leagues out to sea.” (Braudel 1984, p. 215)

The Dutch East India Company continued to overhaul the methods of harvesting in the wild and eventually began to cultivate its own trees.

In 1767, Lord Brown of East India Company established Anjarakkandy Cinnamon Estate near Anjarakkandy in Cannanore (now Kannur) district of Kerala, and this estate became Asia’s largest cinnamon estate.

The British took control of the island from the Dutch in 1796. However, the importance of the monopoly of Ceylon was already declining, as cultivation of the cinnamon tree spread to other areas, the more common cassia bark became more acceptable to consumers, and coffee, tea, sugar, and chocolate began to outstrip the popularity of traditional spices.


Cinnamon is harvested by growing the tree for two years then coppicing it. The next year, about a dozen shoots will form from the roots.

The branches harvested this way are processed by scraping off the outer bark, then beating the branch evenly with a hammer to loosen the inner bark. The inner bark is then prised out in long rolls. Only the thin inner bark is used; the outer, woody portion is discarded, leaving metre-long cinnamon strips that curl into rolls on drying. Once dry, the bark is cut into 5–10 cm lengths for sale.

Cinnamon has been cultivated from time immemorial in Sri Lanka, and the tree is also grown commercially at Kerala in southern India, Bangladesh, Java, Sumatra, the West Indies, Brazil, Vietnam, Madagascar, Zanzibar, and Egypt. Sri Lanka cinnamon has a very thin, smooth bark with a light-yellowish brown color and a highly fragrant aroma.

According to the International Herald Tribune, in 2006 Sri Lanka produced 90% of the world’s cinnamon, followed by China, India, and Vietnam. According to the FAO, Indonesia produces 40% of the world’s Cassia genus of cinnamon.

Flavor, aroma and taste

Cinnamon bark is widely used as a spice. It is principally employed in cookery as a condiment and flavoring material. It is used in the preparation of chocolate, especially in Mexico, which is the main importer of true cinnamon. It is also used in many desserts recipes, such as apple pie, donuts, and cinnamon buns as well as spicy candies, tea, hot cocoa, and liqueurs. True cinnamon, rather than cassia, is more suitable for use in sweet dishes. In the Middle East, it is often used in savory dishes of chicken and lamb. In the United States, cinnamon and sugar are often used to flavor cereals, bread-based dishes, and fruits, especially apples; a cinnamon-sugar mixture is even sold separately for such purposes. Cinnamon can also be used in pickling. Cinnamon bark is one of the few spices that can be consumed directly. Cinnamon powder has long been an important spice in Persian cuisine, used in a variety of thick soups, drinks, and sweets. It is often mixed with rosewater or other spices to make a cinnamon-based curry powder for stews or just sprinkled on sweet treats (most notably Shole-zard, Persian شله زرد). It is also used in sambar powder or BisiBelebath powder in Karnataka, which gives it a rich aroma and tastes unique. It is also used in Turkish cuisine for both sweet and savory dishes.


Note: I hope readers won’t mind. I took most of this directly from Wikipedia. The article there (at the time of this post) was extremely interesting, the history section especially, so I grabbed the best bits and left the details aside. For a full reading please visit this page: Cinnamon on Wikipedia.

About The Author

Clement Lefebvre (aka "Clem") is the lead developer and founder of Cinnamon and Linux Mint. He's also involved in the MATE project as release manager.


  1. Mitchell says: - reply

    Well Done Clem!

    Cinnamon appears to address the larger community concerns of shiny,shiny Gnome 3.x with a feeling of loss of productivity ability and usage vs. the Gnome 2.3x desktop environment focused largely on productivity and less on spinning cubes and dazzle.

    A main concern also is that older machines appear to have video hardware and/or video driver problems putting out the bling shiny,shiny Gnome 3.x,Unity,KBE 4x desktop environment which effectively turns those new desktop environments into legacy breakers.

    Does turning a desktop environment into a bubble-gum version of a tablet interface really increase productivity or even lead to acceptable levels of productivity? Many do not feel it does, however Win 8 users feel otherwise and are just as likely to suffer from pushing in that direction as they push for incompatibility with Win 7 and other OS.

    I applaud Clem’s efforts and energy with others on developing and founding Cinnamon and look forward to adding that desktop environment to my Mint desktop in the future.

  2. Congratulations Clem!
    The Linux Mint have the best experience in the Gnome 3.
    With the Cinnamon, all the features of Linux Mint will be more simple and powerfull, in my point of view.
    Thanks for the Cinnamon, Clem!

  3. Jeannie says: - reply

    Sounds great, but why base it upon gnome-shell and not gnome3-panel?

  4. Rajmohan says: - reply

    Great work Clem. Been testing for 3 hours. No problems so far. Wish you good luck in this project mate.

  5. Rajmohan says: - reply

    By the by I love the name Cinnamon. I am from kerala and the name have a homely feeling among the natives.

  6. Tina Toledo says: - reply

    Thanx a lot Clem!!!

    I’m “tasting’n'testing” the new Cinnamon flavor, really works fine but I’m missing one control panel to change the task bar features and its behavior, any way I think you may working on this and it will be included later.

    I really appreciate your efforts and the great work that you doing… please go ahead!!

  7. Thanks for the great job and good luck with the project, i would like to know how to program like that and make a little contribution, but my knowledge is kind of low. So maybe i can get some help with your community

    (I’m planning to make something to Ktechlab in a future i hope :/…)

  8. Marty says: - reply

    Don’t follow the leader, become one !

    Mint and Cinnamon cake…
    Yummy !

    well done

  9. Markus says: - reply

    Great news!

    Now I can finally get rid of Ubuntu.

    Those “UI experts” in the Gnome and Ubuntu Community – I wonder how much of them are really UI experts in the business world – are the nemesis of Linux nowadays.

    I am surely no close minded person who cannot open up to new ways of working, but although, and I tried it really long, there is no way I can see a speedup of working, Gnome UI and Unity slows down the speed of my work the speed of my laptop and my joy of using the OS. And I am not alone.

    But what does Ubuntu and Gnome? They say we are all people who are closed minded and only have to try it to like it because it is all better.

    So thanks again for doing such work :)

  10. John2010 says: - reply

    This is a useful development, in particular while my desktop computer (a) is no toy and (b) isn’t a smart-phone…
    I expect a lot from canela, uh Cinnemon! The gap between Gnome 2 and
    3 with its indigenous shell is/was too large, leaving most of us with an unproductive computer-system. Cinnemon closes this gap and many will find the well-known and familiar look and feel better suited to jump into the future…

  11. kelebek333 says: - reply

    Many thanks, I wish you success.

  12. Gaveen says: - reply

    Came here looking for Cinnamon project and I was pleasently surprised by the additional account of history. Being a Sri Lankan, I love your choice of a name. As the flavor, aroma and texture goes it tells of a unique quality, something we’ve some to expect without saying from Clem and Mint. :)

    In an unrelated note, history of my country records that cinnamon trade was partially a reason for the europian occupation of the island for centuries. So there’s also the sories and memories of oppression, hardship, war, rebellions and freedom. Cinnamon if a spice, but to Sri Lanka it may be more than that. :) Coming back to the topic, I’d like to learn a few things about the project though this may not be the proper channel.

    Is Cinnamon a going to be happy about living side-by-side with the stock GNOME 3 UI, which means Cinnamon is a new user experience for G3 rather than a new desktop environment? Is the Cinnamon experience build with shell plugins or from the GNOME-Shell level? And finally, I hope it’s not Mint/Ubuntu specific because I’m sure there’ll be interest in some of other distro users. I beg your pardon if these have been answered elsewhere.

  13. R.C. says: - reply

    This is a really great idea. Congratulations, and thanks for the hard work!

    I do not know where to search this, but since Cinnamon will be using GNOME 3 technology under the hood, would this mean that assistive technologies such as the Orca screen reader and screen magnification (either using Compiz’s eZoom plugin or the built-in Zoom feature of mutter) would work out of the box?

    I don’t ask this to start a flame war (and believe me, sadly, I have seen a lot of them started when disabled individuals ask if something would work for them), and I do not mean to add extra stress on top of all of the work which you as well as others are doing. I am a blind Linux user, and I completely rely on screen magnification as well as screen readers such as Orca.

    In any case, thanks for all of the hard work which is being put into this!

  14. Cinnamon is very nice! However, why is it that the FireTray plug-in for Thunderbird (shows the number of unread emails) doesn’t show up among the indicators? It works fine with MGSE.

  15. Niavlys says: - reply

    Great! Can’t wait to try it :) I’m installing it right now on my Arch Linux system (I don’t use Mint myself but I always recommend it and install it on other computers). I am using Gnome 3 in fallback mode since some time, it works and is pretty close to Gnome 2, but with less customization and apparently lesser and lesser support, so this is good news for me and the Linux desktop.
    And I have yet to try LM12 with MGSE (and MATE)… You are going too fast for me ! Many thanks for your work. I hope you manage to live on it.

  16. pottzie says: - reply

    Whooee, doggies, here we go! I was elated when I saw that the Mint crew had created Cinnamon. Then I became ecstatic when I read that it was available not only for
    Mint, but Fedora and Arch too! It just so happens that my Arch Linux box suffered it’s first ‘meltdown’, and I had to re-install. So, that means that I have a fresh install of Arch, and I wanted to install Cinnamon to Arch. All seemed to go well until I hit a snag at:”error: The requested URL returned error: 403 while accessing https://github.com/linuxmint/Cinnamon.git/info/refs
    fatal: HTTP request failed”
    Perhaps due to new versions of Cinnamon in the course of a few days, but do I try the Arch forum for help, or will Cinnamon have it’s own forum? I checked Mint’s forum and didn’t see anything specifically for Cinnamon.
    I know, all Clem needs now is one more thing to do! Maybe he can clone some elves. After all, as I understand things Clem is Canadian, so he’s closer to the North Pole than the rest of us.

  17. Miguel says: - reply

    Why can’t I get it working under Ubuntu 11.10 on a clean install? It doesn’t show up on LightDM.

  18. This is a great piece of work. I really like it and can now do some work with Ubuntu. But, can the theme icon be moved “away” from the upper left corner? It gets in the way of open programs. Other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing and am going to download and install it on my Fedora 16 machine as well.

    Thanks a lot for putting the effort into it.

  19. I had hoped to find an outline of what the software does, not a history of the spice.

  20. One thing I’d like to say is always that before purchasing more pc memory, look at the machine in to which it is installed. If the machine is usually running Windows XP, for instance, a memory threshold is 3.25GB. Applying in excess of this would easily constitute some sort of waste. one’s motherboard can handle an upgrade volume, as well. Good blog post.

  21. Jeff Dege says: - reply

    Just a thought, that hopefully someone will listen to.

    I don’t object to the idea that desktop tools should take advantage of the glitzy capabilities that modern GPUs make available. But the tools need to degrade in a reasonable manner, when those capabilities aren’t there.

    It’s not just that there are still machines out there without modern GPUs, it’s that remote access and virtualization are becoming more and more a normal way of accessing a desktop. Few of these technologies provide effective GPU emulation at all, and even those that do can’t provide it over slow network connections.

    It is essential that any desktop tool be able to run in the absence of GPU acceleration.

    It’s not enough to not run, and to fall back on some other more limited set of desktop tools. Those tools will inherently have a different configuration. It’s hard enough learning where everything is in a system’s menuing system – it’s damned frustrating to have to learn an entirely different system, when you have to access the machine remotely.

    A user doesn’t much care whether his menus are implemented in one program, that uses GPU glitz when it can, and degrades when it can’t, or whether there are two, one of which uses the GPU and the other does not, so long that when he makes a change to his menus, he’s making a change to his menus, regardless of whether the GPU is present or not, and that the menus are laid out in pretty much the same way, with same choices and the same navigation methods.

  22. Thank you very very very very very very much. This is the best desktop environment I have used ever. Thanks a lot for creating it and for the effort you are doing every day to developing it. I thank you deeply.

  23. misha says: - reply

    previously i used gnome 2x, when came gnome 3 i some time used unity but i did not like it too much and i for a long time thought which DE should i use till i saw and try cinnamon. Thank you!

  24. Anuj says: - reply

    I may be late to the party Clem… Congrats on Cinnamon :) Awesome!

  25. chill says: - reply

    What is Cinnamon?

    Okay, help me out here. I popped over to find out what Cinnamon was. There is no “About” in the menu and the home page just shows various releases.

    Tracking back to the first “News” entry brings me to this article. It starts out well enough with “We’re going to talk about Cinnamon A LOT: Why we’re working on it, what it’s set to achieve, how it works and how you can use, customize, extend, theme and improve it….”

    After that I get a Wikipedia article on the spice in my kitchen.

    No mention of whether or not it is based on GTK, Qt, WxWidgets or something else. If it uses Gnome 2, 3, XFCE or KDE as a base or starts from scratch. x86, Arm, x86-64? Something totally new or just a theme for Mint?

    As best I can tell Cinnamon is Fight Club! What is the first rule about Cinnamon? You don’t talk about Cinnamon!

    Help me out here.

    Edit by Clem: It’s a desktop environment which includes a panel with applets, a workspace manager and a window manager. It was originally forked from Gnome Shell (and mutter) and evolved very differently since. In its latest stable version (1.4) it uses nautilus for file and desktop management and Gnome 3 for background services and session management. Going forward it could replace nautilus with either nemo (a gtk3 fork of nautilus 3) or caja (a gtk2 fork of nautilus 2) to guarantee a better integration with cinnamon, centralized settings and to avoid being impacted from what are considered upcoming upstream regressions (loss of computer shortcut, UI changes in nautilus etc..). Technically it’s written in C and Javascript and uses clutter for its UI. It’s layout and design are influenced by Linux Mint, Gnome 2 and Compiz and it comes with innovative features of its own in particular when it comes to workspace management. Its biggest issue is hardware support as clutter requires 3D acceleration and Cinnamon doesn’t always work for everybody depending on their GPU.

  26. chill says: - reply

    Thank you. That is exactly what I was looking for. Very interesting.

  27. Eric P. says: - reply

    Thank you, Clem. Your edit (above) was exactly what I expected of a technical blog: A technical discussion. ;)

    Please write more posts like *that*!

  28. Jack D says: - reply

    KO, so where is it exlpained what Cinnamon is in relation to Linux Desktops? Assume, I’m not some loyal fanatic devotee of Linux or Mint blogs, but just another user who happens to prefer the Mint distribution of Linux over all the other.

    A user who has long used KDE. Having used KDE longer than I’ve been married. Longer than my youngest child has been alive, and longer than all my grandchildren have been alive. A Linux user who is now so frustrated with KDE that, it will now be banished from my machine by the fact that I am blacklisting Akonadi at the package level, which will force the removal of many applications.

    So what is Cinnamon? I know what cinnamon the spice is, but have no clue what Cinnamon the “desktop environment?” is. Ok, I see, you tell what it is in an edit to another frustrated searcher’s reply. Ugh. Gnome? Sigh…

    I really hate to banish KDE, but Gnome or a Gnome clone isn’t a substitute for me. I’ve always hated the way Gnome makes management and everyday use harder “for me”. I may install Cinnamon, to see what you’ve done, but I’m sure I’ll hate it.

    Adding an about or footnote here would be nice, rather than making people dig through replies to find a key and vital bit of inormation.

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