Cerf Island Resort, Seychelles logo
A little hide-away in the heart of the Indian Ocean...



 Cerf Island Resort Seychelles Hotel Website en Francais
 

  • Beach view
  • View over the infinity pool
  • Reception lounge and pool

Arrival Date:

Number of Nights:
More Languages - Reservations
Cancel | View
Reservations
SearchCustomer testimonials
Subscribe to our newsletter for special offers and latest Cerf Resort news...
 Special offers
Weddings & honeymoonsA romantic wedding

Private Mini Spa
Spa treatments

Resort Map
Click to get to the larger map Click to get to the larger map
Click to get to the larger map Click to get to the larger map

 

Cinnamon - The Scent of Seychelles

It is amongst the oldest of spices. Brought to Seychelles 234 years ago, it was once an important mainstay of the island’s economy. Tony Mathiot invites us to bask in the fragrance of cinnamon.

It’s warm and spicy. It’s sweet and fragrant. It’s aromatic. It’s common, it’s everywhere. It’s cinnamon! Take a leaf, crush it in your hand and inhale….one of the oldest fragrances on earth. Surely, it must have been amongst the favourite luxuries of Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt before she committed suicide in 30BC. Indeed, cinnamon was being used for medicinal purposes long before Alexander The Great conquered Egypt. Together with ginger, cloves and pepper, cinnamon is amongst the earliest known spices on earth. The story of how it was taken from its original home, Sri Lanka, and brought to the Seychelles where it now grows in rampant profusion is steeped in the political intrigues of colonialist rivalries, the shenanigans of imperial powers and the depravity and barbarity of slavery.

 

Spices were once a rare and precious commodity. The aristocratic class of Venice for example would spend inordinate sums of money on a few ounces of cloves or cardamom. In medieval Europe, cinnamon was a staple ingredient along with ginger and was used to flavour meat and fruit which were invariably prepared in a single cauldron.

 

Spices were consumed in huge quantities by the upper crust of European society who used it to season and flavour cured meats which began to spoil during the winter. The excess or moderation with which a host offered spices to his guests was an indication of his social rank or wealth. Most of the spices were brought to Europe from India and the Moluccas (Formerly Spice Islands, an island group of Indonesia) by Arab merchants travelling in companies known as caravans. The ‘spice route’ was from India to the Persian Gulf, the spices being taken in caravels across the Arabian Sea. They were then carried by the caravans across the vast expanse of the Middle East, passing through Ethiopia, Sudan and Libya, eventually arriving to the Mediterranean or the Black Sea, and from there into the countries of Europe. The long and arduous journey sometimes took as long as two years and this naturally helped to make the spices very costly.

 

Nevertheless, the fascination for spices was so overwhelming that the gentry of Vienna would not hesitate to splash a fortune on nutmegs, cloves or cinnamon. People were intrigued by the exquisite taste that these ‘exotic substances’ gave to their dishes but had no knowledge of the far-away places where they came from. The Arab merchants would not dare to divulge the sources of their precious commodities lest potential rivals outmanoeuvre them in the lucrative spice trade. In the 13th century there were dozens of Moslem Arab-Persian trading colonies established all along the East-African coast, for the transaction of gold, palm oil, slaves and, of course, spices.

 

As European demand for spices soared and prices escalated, curiosity fermented among explorers. Finding cinnamon was the main goal of maritime exploration in the 15th and 16th century and most of the voyages were carried out in an attempt to find a way by sea from Europe to the East Indies. In 1488, the Portuguese navigator Bartholomew Diaz made a voyage of discovery across Africa’s Cape of Good Hope which opened the ‘Spice route’ to the East Indies. A decade later, another intrepid Portuguese explorer, Vasco Da Gamma, reached India by sea. And, lo and behold, there lying off the south-eastern coast of India was the cradle of cinnamon zeylanicum – cinnamon, the world’s most coveted spice! The country was Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and it abounded in Kurudu (the Sinhalese word for cinnamon). Desperate to control and monopolize the spice industry the Portuguese went to extremes. They enslaved the indigenous veddahs, sank Arab Dhows and hanged their European competitors and opponents. The footholds they established in India and Africa helped Portugal to conquer the spice trade and become a world power for over a century.

 

Because of its important value both as a spice and herbal medicine, it’s not surprising that cinnamon became one of the most sought after commodities of the 16th century.

 

As they proceeded to claim and acquire territories and nations across the world for their respective empires, Dutch, French and English merchant battled and struggled with the Portuguese and with each other over the possession of the spice lands (namely Ceylon and Moluccas in the southern Philippines). In 1658 the Dutch drove the Portuguese out of Ceylon and gained control of the cinnamon industry. The Portuguese also ceded the sovereignty of Indonesia to the Dutch who for the ensuing decades became Europe’s most important trade power. The death penalty was imposed on clandestine importers of spices from the Dutch East Indies.

 

The Dutch had no reason to envisage that one day in 1796 they would have to surrender their gondola to the encroaching tentacles of the British East India Company, the supreme organ of British Imperialism.

 

In 1772, sixteen years after the French had taken possession of the Seychelles islands, the administrator of Mauritius, Pierre Poivre, a redoubtable figure in the history of Seychelles, embarked on a risky and audacious venture. In retrospect, it was one of the most dangerous and daring schemes of the 18th century: to break the Dutch monopoly on cinnamon. He was a strong-willed naturalist and is fondly remembered as the creator of the Pamplemousses gardens. His ambition was to duplicate the exploits of the Dutch in the Indian Ocean where the trade of spices was a primary source of colonial wealth.

 

In 1771, he personally undertook a couple of expeditions to the Dutch East Indies and managed to smuggle out samples of spice plants and, most important of all, cinnamon seedlings, which he brought back to Mauritius. Upon learning that on Mahe, the salubrious climate and the soil composition were propitious for a spice garden, he dispatched his most trusted agent Antoine Gillot accompanied by 40 workers and a small contingent of slaves. The spice garden Gillot created was situated at Anse Royale and was called ‘Jardin Du Roi’ after the French King Louis XV. There, cloves, nutmegs, pepper and cinnamon grew and flourished for some time until May 1780 when it was destroyed by a monumental act of blunder. The commandant of Seychelles, Charles Routire de Romainville mistook an approaching French ship for an English one and ordered that the valuable spice garden be burnt completely to prevent the enemy from acquiring the precious spices. The Dutch must have gloated over the preposterous calamity! The conflagration destroyed the entire spice garden but, by good fortune, mynah birds had already propagated cinnamon seeds in the hills of Mahe, where cinnamon saplings became part of the natural scrubland vegetation of the entire island.

 

Cinnamon is from a tropical evergreen tree of the laurel family, growing up to 17 metres (56ft) in its wild state. The bark is smooth, yellowish and aromatic like the leaves. Cinnamon quills are strips of dried bark that have been curled into rolls. Cinnamon is extracted from the leaves and black fruits by distillation.

 

The chief constituent of cinnamon oil is cinnamic aldehyde which possess anaesthetic properties and is used for medicinal purposes, such as for toothache and inflammation of the mucous membrane but most of all is recommended for the cure of diabetes. Indeed the medicinal effects of cinnamon oil are very powerful and there are many uses for it as a carminative, astringent, stimulant and antiseptic. Cinnamon also contains eugenol, metholeugenol and sucrose and is widely used in food manufacturing, confectionary and pharmaceuticals.




Copyright © 2003-2016. Cerf Island Resort Seychelles. All Rights Reserved  Privacy policy | Contact us