Cinnamon is a small evergreen tree belonging to the family Lauraceae, native to Sri Lanka, or the spice obtained from the tree's bark. It is often confused with other similar species and the similar spices derived from them, such as Cassia and Cinnamomum burmannii, which are often called cinnamon too. The name cinnamon comes from Greek kinnamomon, itself ultimately from Phoenician. The botanical name for the spice—Cinnamomum zeylanicum—is derived from Sri Lanka's former name, Ceylon.
Cinnamon is harvested by growing the tree for two years and then coppicing it. The next year, about a dozen shoots will form from the roots. These shoots are then stripped of their bark, which is left to dry. Only the thin (0.5 mm) inner bark is used; the outer woody portion is removed, leaving metre-long cinnamon strips that curl into rolls ("quills") on drying; each dried quill comprises strips from numerous shoots packed together. These quills are then cut into 5–10 cm lengths for sale.
Cinnamon bark is widely used as a spice. It is principally employed in cookery as a condiment and flavoring material. It is used in the preparation of chocolate, especially in Mexico, which is the main importer of true cinnamon. It is also used in the preparation of some kinds of desserts, such as apple pie, donuts and cinnamon buns as well as spicy candies, tea, hot cocoa, and liqueurs. True cinnamon, rather than cassia, is more suitable for use in sweet dishes. In the Middle East, it is often used in savory dishes of chicken and lamb. In the United States, cinnamon and sugar are often used to flavor cereals, bread-based dishes, and fruits, especially apples; a cinnamon-sugar mixture is even sold separately for such purposes. Cinnamon can also be used in pickling. Cinnamon bark is one of the few spices that can be consumed directly. Cinnamon powder has long been an important spice in Persian cuisine, used in a variety of thick soups, drinks, and sweets.