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Home > Types of Spices > Barks > Saigon Cassia
Saigon Cassia root
Botanical name:Cinnamomum laureirii Nees
Family name: Lauraceae

Other common names:Indo-Chinese Cassia, Royal Cinnamon, Que-thanh.

Saigon Cassia is one of the important cassias in international trade. The best and the most expensive bark `Que-thanh` or Royal cinnamon comes from the province of Thanh-hoa in North Annam. Barking, that is removal of bark, is usually carried on the standing tree, starting with the main branches and working down the trunk, not by climbing but by erecting bamboo scaffolding around it. A string is tied round the trunk and main branches at intervals of 40 cm and the bark is cut through at these points with a sharp pointed knife. Then vertical cuts are made between the horizontal incisions at intervals of 25 to 35 cm and the slabs of barks are eased off with the aid of thin spatulas made of bamboo or buffalo horn. Each ring of bark is removed in this way until the bottom of the trunk is reached; the tree is then felled after which small branches and twigs are harvested.

In Quang-nam and other areas, it is usual to remove a ring of bark at the base of the trunk, proceeding with the main operation after a period varying from a few days to a month. The removal of this ring of bark arrests the flow of sap and renders the remainder of the bark easier for removal. In some plantations, the trees are left standing with sufficient bark on the trunk (30 cm to 1.2 meters above the ground level) to give them a reasonable chance for survival.

The bark is marketed in two forms:
Square pieces, unscraped and unrolled (the pieces are actually gutter shaped), Quills, which are often scraped.

The former known as `Canelle plate` or `Banque` is used principally in China, whereas the quills called `Canelle roulee` or `Dong que` are preferred in Western markets. It may be noted that the former is prepared exclusively from the trunk and the main branches; the latter are obtained principally from the bark of the smaller branches.

The unrolled bark is subjected to much more elaborate processes of preparation than quills. The bark is soaked in water for 24 hours, then washed and dried in the shade. It is then fermented for 2 days in closely woven bamboo baskets so thickly lined with dry banana leaves that the bark is almost hermetically sealed.

It is again washed and dried in the air and shade on bamboo screens, being wiped from time to time to remove the mildew, when sufficiently dried so that no more mildew forms. The bark is bound tightly on to pieces of thick bamboo. Thus compressed, it assumes the shape of the bamboo and becomes smooth and polished. Twice daily, it is untied and wiped. This treatment takes two weeks in summer or a month in winter.

However, it may be added that the method of preparation and packing varies somewhat in different parts of the world. A much simpler method is used in Quang-nam where the pieces of bark are tied merely by spreading them on bamboo racks raised off the ground, and covering them with banana leaves. In order to prevent the pieces of bark rolling up, rods of bamboo, a little shorter than the width of the pieces, are placed transversely at top, middle and bottoms, being held in place by the curled edges of the bark. When dry, the bark is finished to the requirement of purchasers. The whole process takes a few days for thin bark, but up to a month for thick bark. Likewise, a method of fire drying is also used for drying both wild and cultivated bark.

Scraping the detached bark to remove the outer course, valueless bark, and drying prepare quills. Quill formation takes place automatically on drying, but the process may be assisted by suitable manual pressure and rolling. For the Chinese trade, bark has to be packed so that it retains its aroma and essential oil during prolonged storage. The small quantities are preserved by wrapping in fine muslin, the ends being waxed or by packing in zinc canisters. Large quantities are packed in zinc lined wooden boxes, divided horizontally into two compartments by a bamboo tray. The lower compartment is filled with honey and the bark is arranged in layers on the tray. It is claimed that the bark keeps indefinitely provided the cases are kept tightly closed.

The end use of Saigon Cassia or in fact all cassias are almost identical to those of the cinnamon. It is used for flavoring of bakery, confectionery and numerous curried food products. In Vietnam it is used as medicine in home remedies. It has medicinal properties almost identical to cinnamon. Cassia oil is used in perfumery and cosmetics. Cassia bud is also used popularly as spices in Orient.
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