Indonesian Cassia (Indonesian Cinnamon)

Cinnamomum burmannii Nees – Indonesian cinnamon, Indonesian cassia, Java cassia, Fagot cassia, Padang cinnamon, Batavia cassia, Korintji cassia, cassia vera.

Indonesian cassia or Indonesian cinnamon is the dried bark of Cinnamomum burmannii which is grown in the Malaysia-Indonesia regions and commercially cultivated in the Indonesian islands. It is grown most extensively in the Sumatera, Java and Jambi Islands and extends up to Timor, growing from sea level to about 2000 m. The main centre of cultivation is the Padang area of Sumatera, at altitudes of 500–1300 m. A variant of Cinnamomum burmannii, which has red young leaves, is grown at a higher elevation in the region of Mount Korintji (Kerinci). This cassia is of better quality and is traded in the international market as Korintji (or Kerinci) cassia. The form having green young leaves is grown at lower elevations, and is referred to in the international market as Padang cassia, Batavia cassia or cassia vera. In a small scale it is also cultivated in Phillippines.

The main centres of cultivation are Jambi and west Sumatera, which have around 59,490 ha and 28,893 ha areas respectively, producing around 20,185 t and 18,525 t of cassia bark, respectively. In 1999 there was 123,979 ha of cassia cinnamon that produced 42,590 t of bark. Most of the cassia bark produced is exported and domestic consumption is very little. In 1998, Indonesia exported 36,202 t of cassia bark valued at US$31.7 million. The main importing countries are the USA, Germany and the Netherlands. Almost 85–90% of the product exported from Indonesia comes from west Sumatera.

Habit

Cinnamomum burmannii is a small evergreen tree, up to 15 m tall, having subopposite leaves. The petiole is 0.5–1 cm long, with a blade that is oblong–elliptical to lanceolate, 4–14 cm X 1.5–6 cm; pale red and finely hairy when young. Older leaves are glabrous, glossy green above and glaucous pruinose below. Inflorescence is a short axillary panicle. Flowers are borne on 4–12 mm long pedicel, perianth 4–5 mm long and after anthesis the lobes tear off transversely about half way. Stamens about 4 mm long, staminodes 2 mm, fruit (berry) is ovoid, about 1 cm long. (see site for details on nomenclature and botanical aspects).

Kostermans (1964) lists the following varieties of Cinnamomum burmannii:

var. angustifolium Meissner

var. chinense (Bl.) Meissner

var. kiamis (Nees) Meissner

var. lanceolatum Miquel

var. microphyllum Miquel

var. sumatrense Teijsm & Binnenad

var. suleavene Miquel

Indonesian Cassia (Indonesian Cinnamon): Production

Harvesting and Post-Harvest Handling

The periodical thinning of trees is often undertaken. The first thinning is usually in the third year and it produces some inferior bark. The first harvesting by thinning (or selective felling) is done in the fifth year when bark of fair to average quality is obtained. Thereafter some selective harvesting is done annually and continues for about 15 years. Trees are harvested at the beginning of the rainy season when the bark can be peeled easily. The trunk is first scraped with a blunt knife to remove moss, lichens and outer cork tissue. The bark is harvested from the lower part of the trunk in strips about 1 m in length and 7.5–10 cm wide. The tree is then felled leaving a stump of 20–30 cm, and the bark is stripped from the upper part of the trunk and larger branches. The stump then regenerates and one or two strong shoots are allowed to develop into new stems. Thus a field will be continuously harvested for a considerable period of time. Both peel and cut methods are used for the extraction of bark, the former gives higher yield and better quality bark. Bark is also separated by beating the harvested stem with a mallet.

The extracted bark is then dried by spreading it on mats or wire netting either in the sun or in partial shade. In some areas the harvested bark is heaped for a few days and allowed to undergo fermentation. Then the bark is washed and dried. For preparing higher quality quills the bark is tied around bamboo poles, and on drying such bark assumes an attractive curved appearance. Rusli and Hamid reported that from eight-year old trees about 14 t dry bark per hectare can be achieved.

On drying, the bark curls into quills, and is then ready for marketing. The dried quill is reddish brown in colour. The yield is highly variable. On an average a tree gives about 3 kg of stem bark and 1.5 kg of branch bark. In a crop cycle of ten years the total yield from 1 ha is about 2 t/ha of bark.

The dried bark is graded based on type (scraped, unscraped, quills, quillings, featherings, chips), appearance (length, colour) and volatile oil. The Korintji and Padang forms are graded by appearance into A, B, C and D types according to length, colour and quality, and are sold on their content of essential oil. The following grades have been recognised in the international trade circles for Korintji cassia:

Vera C/WAA 2–3/4
Korintji A3.00 ML/SVO
Korintji A2.75 ML/SVO
Korintji B2.50 ML/SVO
Korintji B2.25 ML/SVO
Korintji C1.50 ML/SVO
Korintji C1.00 ML/SVO

The USA is the main importer of Indonesian cassia, and experience there shows that volatile oil content usually varies between 1.3% for Korintji C and 4% for Korintji A and between 1% for Batavia C and 2.7% for Batavia A. The grade AA is used primarily for packing in glass bottles where appearance is more important than oil content. The type cassia vera, produced from Java, Celebes, Phillippines, etc. are exported mainly to Germany. Rusli and Hamid reported that KA (Korintji A) contains 0.86% oil, KB 0.47% oil and KC 0.35% oil.

Indonesian Cassia: Pests, Diseases

Chemistry

Chemically, Indonesian cassia is similar to that of Chinese cassia. The bark oil has a composition similar to Ceylon cinnamon and Chinese cassia oils. Cinnamaldehyde is the major component in bark and leaf oils. Bark oil is obtained by steam or hydrodistillation and the yields range from 0.5 to over 2.0%. It is a colourless to brownish-yellow liquid having an odour similar, but less delicate, to that of the Ceylon cinnamon bark oil. Reports indicated a cinnamaldehyde content of about 80–95% and later studies revealed the presence of alpha-terpineol, coumarin and benzaldehyde in batavia and Korintji cassia. Eugenol is absent in the oil. The leaf on distillation gives about 0.4–0.5% oil, having about 45–62% cinnamaldehyde and about 10% phenols. The properties of Indonesian cassia bark and leaf oils are regarded similarly to those of Chinese cassia bark and leaf oils. However, later reports indicate a chemical composition that is distinctly different. Xiao-duo et al. reported 1,8-cineol as the major component in bark and leaf oils.

Yu-Jing et al. investigated the chemical composition of a physiological type rich in borneol (Mei Pan tree) and detected 34 constituents in leaf oil.

Moestafa and Badeges studied the distillation of cassia cinnamon using the cohobation method and tried to identify the components. They reported that 70 °C is the optimum temperature for distillation and the yields of oil when trapped at 25 °C, 70°C and 85 °C, were 0.57%, 1.62% and 0.31% respectively. They also found that the major components of bark oil are cinnamic aldehyde and eugenol. Chen et al. analysed Cinnamomum burmannii f. heyneanum leaves, which yielded 0.54–0.85% oil on steam distillation. The oil contained 96.28–99.7% safrole, and is thus an excellent source of safrole.

Bark and leaf oils of Indonesian cassia have little commercial significance, as the entire cassia oil production for commerce is derived almost entirely from Chinese cassia and cinnamon oil from Ceylon cinnamon.

Other Aspects: Cassia Vera for Soil Conservation

Research during the past five years on cassia vera at locations 240 m above sea level which receive an average rainfall of 370 mm/month have indicated a reduction in soil erosion compared with grass cover. The prediction of erosian under the cassia vera were 14.25 t/ha/year, while on grass vegetation it was 24.46 t/ha/year. So cassia vera can be used as a conservation plant. This effect will be prolonged if yields are harvested in the form of peeled bark rather than cutting trees. Dijisbar and Dhalimi indicated that in a sloping area, such as in Singkarak lake, west Sumatera, alley cropping was recommended using Sloping Agriculture Land Technology. Contour lines and seed beds ±20 cm wide and 10–15 cm high are prepared and cassia vera plants are planted between two contour lines as a main crop along with annual crops such as corn, dry land rice and legumes as intercrops. If sloping increases up to 15–30%, then each contour line consists of one swallow ditch, one line of king grass and one line of vetiver. With 30% slope, each contour line consists of one swallow ditch, one line of vetier and two lines of king grass. Cassia plants are planted between two contours. This has been proven to be an efficient method for cultivating sloppy lands.

Indonesian Cassia (Indonesian Cinnamon): Conclusion

In spite of the fact that Cinnamomum burmannii is an important export crop, little research and development has gone into its production and improvement. Even efforts on collection-conservation and evaluation of germplasm have been initiated only very recently. In Sumatera these activities were started during 1991–1992. The Research Institute for Spices and Medicinal Crops has initiated this work at its research centre in Sumatera where a germplasm collection has been assembled. This collection consists of progenies of 71 trees selected from the field, 232 random collections, and 35 elite collections. There are also four blocks of half a ha each of Bukit Gompong cinnamon collection conserved there. No superior line has so far been released for commercial growing, through a couple of superior lines have been identified.

 

Selections from the book: “Cinnamon and Cassia. The genus Cinnamomum”. Edited by P.N. Ravindran, K. Nirmal Babu, and M. Shylaja. Series: “Medicinal and Aromatic Plants — Industrial Profiles”. 2003.