History about Spices

Gamaraala Products

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Back in a time where freezers or DE freezers did not exist, people around the globe used different natural methods to preserve food. The Europeans who lived in cold zones faced more difficulty in food preserving than others. But they were able to overcome this with Spices. This stands out as the foremost reason for spices to possess a greater market in the Europe. The Arabian merchants had the authority over the trade of spices before the 15th century. Gathering the valuable spices from the Eastern regions and dispensing them to the Mediterranean ports via Constantinople was their mechanism. The Arabians literally had the monopoly over trading spices in the Europe. But the authority was brought down from the Arabians soon after shipping industry began between countries. This made the Europeans sail towards the Eastern Region and companies like “The Indian Trading Company” was able to break the monopoly, the Arabians had for Spices. Thereafter the Europeans built their commercial empire within Asia and Africa while providing sufficient supplies to the Europe.

Spices and Sri Lanka

The history tells us that both western and eastern regions used spices to bring flavors to their food over the centuries. Spices and Ceylon were two names that always mentioned together. The Old Ceylon was well-known among the Europeans for their unique spices. In the beginning of this commerce Sri Lanka was in business with Greece, Rome and Arabia. Even to date, 56% of the Agricultural Exports of Sri Lanka belong to Spices and oils related to them. We were the center of attention of the world since ancient times due to spices that is considered as one of the major export items. When we were in the Colonial system under the Europeans, spices had its importance among gems, pearls and diamonds that were high in demand. Sri Lanka was known as the Spices Island amongst the countries of the world.

The growing demand for Sri Lankan spices became one of the major reasons for foreign invasions of our country. The results of modern researches have shown that any spice can be grown in Sri Lanka. The famous archeologist Professor Senerath Paranavithana had stated that the Northern part of Sri Lanka had abundant of turmeric and ginger while describing about an incident that was written in “Pali Rasavahini” where a merchant went to Malaya part of the country in search of turmeric and ginger. “Pattipanalai”- A book written in South India mentions of a traveler named Moses who visited Sri Lanka in the 5th Century. He articulates about the availability of Spices in our country back then. The Buddhist religious volumes “Thupawanshaya” and “Saddharmawathnawaliya” similarly states about the knowledge Sri Lankan had in using spices to prepare meals.

The “Thonigala Inscription” clearly indicates than among the Alms that were given to Buddhist clergies back then were inclusive of spices and oil. The ancient stony memo that was found in “Meda Ulpotha” indicates about a fenugreek forest that existed in Sri Lanka. The traveler named “Kasvini” who visited our country in the 13th century also speaks about the availability of spices in abundance. Since the age of Dambadniya Kingdom, Muslims, Arabians and Chinese traders bought our spices and this same business was later shifted to merchants came from Portuguese, Holland and English. The historical book “Kaawyshekaraya” says that every household back then had ginger, cumin and chilly in their gardens.

Robert Nocks and Robero both wrote that the pleasant climate in Sri Lanka help any spice to grow here. The same story is confirmed by Haiti a German who also testified about Sri Lanka. He talks about a spicy drink made with chilly, cumin and ginger. He claims that Sri Lankans used to drink daily and it made them healthy. Furthermore, Dave’s writing also mentions how the Sri Lankans used to grow ginger, turmeric, onions and garlic in their gardens.

  1. The Portuguese Age

    Sri Lanka became a colony of the Portuguese by the year 1505. The Arabians were trading the Sri Lankan spices by that time and because of the invasion of the Portuguese, they lost the business in this country.
    Unfortunately, the Portuguese had no intension whatsoever in developing the cultivation of spices in Sri Lanka nevertheless they gained the pure profit by selling our spices.

  2. The Dutch Age

    The cultivation of spices extensively grew under the Dutch control over Sri Lanka. Dissimilar to the Portuguese, The Dutch began cultivation of the spices. The present area known as Cinnamon Gardens that belong to Colombo 07 happened to be the area of land that the Dutch used to grow cinnamon.

  3. The British Age

    When the English came to know how the Dutch were making extreme profit by spices, they invaded Sri Lanka and gained authority over us in 1796. During the decade of 1720, the French and the Spanish invaded African countries and inaugurated cultivating cloves and nutmegs. Accordingly, the British initiated cultivating the seeds and plants brought in from Africa. Ever since the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, spices had turn out to be the leading income source of Sri Lanka.

    The British age is an era where the interest of cultivating tea had extremely gown. However, our country was well-known for cinnamon from ancient times. It is believed by some of the scholars that name Ceylon was inspired by the botanical name of cinnamon – Cinnamomum Zeylanicum.

Pervasive Spices of Sri Lanka

Among the main spices cultivated in here, there were cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, mace and pepper. Vanilla, curry leaves, coriander, cumin, fennel, turmeric, mustard, ginger and lemon grass were considered as the minor spices that were cultivated in here.

Among all the spices nurture in our country, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace and pepper are the major export crops that bring the greater portion of income which are of huge demand from western region of the world.

Methods of Exporting Spices

The modern Sri Lanka has two major methods of spice exports. They are; Primary Method Value Added Method

In the primary method, spices are exported in its original form while in the value-added method, spices are exported in powder, oil, blended or in different recipes.


The quality of spices needs to be great when exporting. It is essential that the appearance, taste and aroma of spices remain intact. Packaging is done through clean, hygienic methods. The most eminent method is using waterproofed containers made out of linen. Generally, the cinnamon are exported in bundles and cloves are packed inside black polythene to assure the color remained unchanged.