What is the scent or taste that comes to your mind first, when you think about Christmas? We asked our colleagues this question and most of them immediately said: cinnamon!

Cinnamon is made from the dried bark of Cinnamomum trees, native to Sri Lanka, the Malabar coast of India, and Myanmar. The first notes about it occur around 3000-2000 B.C. from Egypt, where it was brought by Arabian traders and used for embalming, preservation and incense or perfume [1, 2].  The Egyptians then traded it further to the Roman empire, where it was highly valued but still not used for cooking. Using cinnamon in cookery must have begun around the Middle Ages in Europe, leading first the Portuguese and then the Dutch to colonise Sri Lanka. Because it was so popular, it was at times more valuable than gold and became the most lucrative of the Dutch East India Company’s spice trades [3]. Later saplings of Cinnamomum trees were distributed so that nowadays it is cultivated also in New Guinea, islands in the Caribbean Sea, Mauritius, Reunion, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Egypt.

Recently, Kirchner et al. [4] published a discussion of the crystal structure of Cinnamaldehyde (C8H9O), which makes up about 80% of the essential oil contained in cinnamon bark [5]. Cinnamaldehyde crystallises in the P21/c space group with a melting point of 265.5 K. The molecules arrange in the a-c plane in a head to tail fashion enabled by the hydrogen bond between the carbonylic oxygen and a phenylic hydrogen. Cinnamaldehyde as a chemical is not only used as flavouring, but also possesses anti-microbial and fungicidal properties [6-8] and can even be used as corrosion protection for steel or other ferrous alloys [9-10].

But back to (Christmas) food: Nowadays you find cinnamon in almost every cuisine from South America to Asia, with many uses in savoury dishes. But in sweet dishes like cinnamon rolls or apple pies it really becomes the highlight. In Germany the best-known cinnamon flavoured Christmas cookies are Spekulatius, Lebkuchen, and Zimtsterne, and Hesse – the state where STOE HQ is located – has its own cinnamon rich speciality: Frankfurter Haddekuche!

So, what is your favourite Christmas sweet?

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[2]; accessed 30.11.22
[3]; accessed 30.11.22
[4] M. T. Kirchner, D. Bläser, R. Boese, T. S. Thakur, G. R. Desiraju, Acta Cryst. C., 2011, 67, o387-o390
[5]; accessed 29.11.22
[6] S. Burt, Int. J. Food Microbiol. 2004, 94, 223–253,
[7] A.Rodríguez, R.Batlle, C.Nerín, Progr. Org. Coatings 2007, 60, 33–38,
[8] I. Boulogne, P. Petit, H. Ozier-Lafontaine, L. Desfontaines, G. Loranger-Merciris, Environ. Chem. Lett. 2012, 10,325–347.
[9] G. Cabello, G. P. Funkhouser, J. Cassidy, C. E.Kiser, J. Lane, A. Cuesta, Electrochimica Acta, 2013, 97, 1-9.
[10], accessed 30.11.22
Von -jha-, CC BY-SA 3.0, (licence haddekuche)

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