We met Sanath and Deepa… via fax! The memory of having made the acquaintance of this wonderful Sri Lankan couple using such old-school technology is amusing and nostalgic.
We knew that Mexicans are the biggest consumers of true cinnamon in the world. We also knew that the best terroir—or growing conditions for the grade we wanted in our spice shop—is the southwestern coast of the island country of Sri Lanka. Having never been to Sri Lanka, however, and as we didn’t know anyone who lived there, we decided to get our cinnamon from Mexico where we had loyal and ”resourceful” friends who were soon sending us gunny sacks of 4-foot Sri Lankan cinnamon quills, by mail.
It was a relief whenever our cinnamon arrived from Mexico. The arrangement we had with our ”supplier” (a friend’s brother and sometimes travel agent whose real calling was living ”the good life”) was not suitable for us. Our goal was to establish a supply chain headed by someone reliable. We were anxious to introduce real cinnamon to our clients, many of whom had been led to believe that the cassia bark they consumed, which has only one of the four volatile oils found in true cinnamon, was the real deal (more on cinnamon vs. cassia in this video).
It was Philippe who noticed a faded numbers stamped on the gunny sack of cinnamon. Determined that the number was a fax, we fired off a ”To whom it may concern” message to someone, somewhere in Sri Lanka. We introduced ourselves and enquired whether the party tho whom we had sent the fax was planter, supplier or cinnamon broker. The reply we received was justifiably guarded, as the respondent had no clear idea who we were or what we wanted.
Communication improved after e-mail addresses were exchanged. We learned that Sanath and his wife, Deepa, were the owners and operators of a cinnamon plantation that Sanath’s family had owned for generations. We were now dealing with people whom we had never actually met and with whom we had only recently become acquainted. We placed a small order with Sanath and Deepa and we were very impressed by the quality of their cinnamon when we got it a few weeks later. It was the beginning of a respectful business relationship that still lasts years after.
We’ve been to Sri Lanka on a couple of occasions, and Sanath and Deepa have visited us here in Montreal. Our friendship have grown over the years—we even traveled to Mexico together. Last time we spoke, Deepa told us that there’s a spare bedroom waiting for us at their new country home in Kosgoda which, not surprisingly, is just a stone’s throw away from a village called Cinnamon.