Word of mouth: Cinammon Hill, introducing us to fresh cinnamon

Date:17-12-2013 01:15:17 read:7

Word of mouth: Cinammon Hill, introducing us to fresh cinnamon

Rupert Beeley and his wife, Charlotta, are on a mission to share the joys of fresh cinnamon

'The smell of really fresh cinnamon is extraordinary' Photo: Alexandra Wheeler

Rupert Beeley thinks there should be a video camera filming the moment when he breaks a stick of fresh cinnamon and offers it to one of his clients. 'It’s – wow! – such a surprise, every time,’ he says. 'The smell of really fresh cinnamon is extraordinary; unlike anything you keep in your spice cupboard.’

Beeley, a former headhunter, and his wife, Charlotta, discovered the astonishing properties of fresh cinnamon when they bought some land in Sri Lanka. 'It turned out to be an old cinnamon plantation,’ Charlotta says. 'We were planning to build a house on it, but also thought we would like to restore the plantation.’

Sri Lankan cinnamon is grown from a bush – not unlike a bay bush – and pruning is very important. You need to encourage long straight stems, about a yard long, to produce the bark that you peel to form the cinnamon stick. 'Peeling is a very skilled job, handed down through the generations,’ Beeley says. 'You have to peel the bark off in one long thin piece. It is then laid down and another piece of peel, slightly thinner, is placed on top of it. As the layers dry, the cinnamon bark retracts, producing the kind of curled stick that you’re used to.’

Because their own plantation is not up to standard yet – 'we’re producing the cinnamon equivalent of second-rate plonk in Bordeaux at present,’ Beeley says – they also import cinnamon from Vietnam and from other growers in Sri Lanka. 'In Vietnam, the farmers grow cinnamon in their gardens and hang the peel in quills on racks on the roofs to dry out – the scent of cinnamon permeates everything,’ Beeley says,

There was a logistical problem, however. To get the full benefit of cinnamon, you need to be able to grate it fresh, and there was no grater or grinder in existence that would do the job properly. Infuriatingly, they had the product, but no way of proving to possible buyers how good it was. Many people would have given up the struggle at this point and retired to their plantation to watch the cricket, deciding to keep the delicious secret of fresh cinnamon to themselves. But the Beeleys are made of sterner stuff. So when their son, Pom, said, 'You’ll just have to invent your own grater,’ they embraced the idea with enthusiasm.

They found a designer who invented a grater made from oak and stainless steel, found makers in Blackburn and Birmingham who could produce it, and cornered a company in Trent who agreed to make the little ceramic cup needed to hold the cinnamon once it has been grated. That took a year, and 'there was a lot of trial and error because we wanted something that hadn’t existed before,’ Beeley says. 'My life is now one long commute between Hanoi, Colombo and Lancashire.’

But the end result is a terrific success – two types of boxed individually wrapped cinnamon sticks and a pleasing ceramic cup with grater to grind the spice over your porridge or muesli, or into your coffee, or over your toast. Freshness is the thing the Beeleys emphasise. Cinnamon in stick form lasts about six months, they reckon. 'If you buy it in a jar who knows how long it’s been there.’ That’s why they have decided to sell their cinnamon only online, so that they have complete control over the freshness of their product.

The Beeleys couldn’t have timed their cinnamon drive better – right on the cusp of the baking bonanza inspired by the Great British Bake Off and when the smell of cinnamon is the smell of Christmas. But it’s not just the aroma that’s important. Cinnamon has many health benefits too: it’s good for digestion, helps to regulate blood sugar levels and makes a very good tea.

Cinnamon sticks cost from £6 for a box of five; the cinnamon starter set, grater, cup and cinnamon, £42. For details visit Cinnamon Hill

    Ever For Health Copy Rights 2013