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Spices Unearthed: Cinnamon & Cassia

Difference between cinnamon and cassia by SeasonWithSpice.com
                                     Ceylon cinnamon                                                                      Indonesian cinnamon

Have you ever tried Cinnamon?

Of course you have.  There’s probably a bottle of ground cinnamon in your kitchen cupboard right now.  Maybe you sprinkle it on your coffee or spoon it into your cookie batter, or even into your curry.

But is that real “cinnamon”?

If you’re living in the US, it’s probably not.  That bottle you have marked “Ground Cinnamon” is most likely another similar spice called Cassia, which is so closely related to cinnamon that we consider it one in the same.  There are a few types of cassia, all nicknamed a type of cinnamon - Indonesian cinnamon (C. Burmannii), Chinese cinnamon (C. Cassia), and Vietnamese cinnamon (C. Loureiroi)

So where does true cinnamon come from?

In ancient times, Arab traders kept the source of cinnamon a secret, concocting extraordinary stories of giant birds in Arabia that built their nests from these mysterious cinnamon sticks, and that brave men had to risk their lives to collect the sticks by climbing up to the cliff hanging nests.  The more fantastic the story they told, the higher the price they charged.

To many of us, the source remains as much a secret now as it did then.

What does Ceylon Cinnamon taste like?

Ceylon cinnamon” is true cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum).  It’s the inner bark of a small evergreen tree that originates from Sri Lanka - formerly called Ceylon.  The more expensive Ceylon cinnamon has a mild, delicate flavor, which makes it ideal for desserts where the spice plays a supporting role in the dish.

But for most of us, mild is not what we want in cinnamon.  That's why cassia is so popular.  Cassia has a higher oil content than cinnamon, giving it a much sweeter, spicier, and more pungent flavor.  The hard, recognizable cassia stick – which consists of both the outer and inner bark of the cassia tree – is more suitable for savory dishes like curry, and when you want a dominating flavor in desserts like cinnamon rolls.

Who can tell the difference anyway?

While Americans add in cassia by the spoonful in breakfast and dessert dishes, across the border, Mexicans enjoy Ceylon cinnamon in many of their local dishes and sweets - the best one, a perfect match of chocolate and Ceylon cinnamon.

But not one cinnamon is better than the other - just more appropriate depending on the recipe:

Indonesian Cinnamon balanced, familiar – the sweet cinnamon that mom and grandma used to add into their baked goodies
mild, delicate – when you want that cinnamon flavor to melt into the dessert and not overpower the other spices
Vietnamese Cinnamon spicy, sweet, intense – for those who love the spice and want every bite of a dessert to scream cinnamon

The only way to appreciate the differences is to taste them all.  Shop for Vietnamese cinnamon, Indonesian cinnamon, and Ceylon cinnamon here on Season with Spice (each offered in stick or ground form).

Once you have your cinnamons on hand, test them in these excellent recipes:
oatmeal cinnamon pancake recipe
Oatmeal Cinnamon Pancakes - Vintage Trinkets
cinnamon monkey bread muffins recipe
Monkey Bread Muffins - Bite My Cake
butternut squash soup recipe
Simple Butternut Squash Soup - Greedy Gourmet
best cinnamon bread recipe
Cinnamon Bread - Cooking for Seven
baked spiced apple recipe
Baked Spiced Apples - Season with Spice
honey vanilla spiced almond nut recipe
Honey Vanilla Spiced Almonds - Season with Spice


Maja Matus said...

So, few weeks earlier, on my trip to Zagreb, I found the REAL cinnamon powder. It was quite a bit expensive, but I had to try it :) Thanks guys!

seasonwithspice said...

That's great Maja, definitely try it out in your baking recipes.

P Cater said...

The link below will help you to identify true Cinnamon from Cassia.


Olusia konwa said...

OMG. I just cannot believe it. Will check shops in UK and Poland for real one.

viet nguyen said...

our company (http://spice.vn/en) is a company specializing in exporting spices.
We specialize in export cinnamon to all countries
What you need to contact me: duyviet@spice.vn

Mike said...

Great block and nice pictures - you may be interested in this free photo gallery - it has some high quality png images of cinemon, cassia and other spices - http://www.jeyjoo.com/gallery/img-cinnamon-and-cassia-721.htm

P Cater said...

this link will help you identify Ceylon Cinnamon from Cassia


Shelley Johnson Wyatt said...

Do your research people! I am using cinnamon for medicinal purposes. I could have potentially damaged my liver in the process because I was taking a tsp of cinnamon a day which has the high concentration of coumarin because it was the cassia type not the ceylon type. Thank God I learned the difference after only three days in! Also, FYI the cinnamon flat sticks they sell in the indian markets in the United States are cassia not ceylon. I talked to a chef from sapna foods inc that was in Georgia to confirm this.I now buy my real ceylon cinnamon from indusorganics.com for $13.99 for 6 ounce bottle of grounded ceylon cinnamon. I hope this helps somebody not make the same mistake I almost made. Stay healthy!

Shelley Johnson Wyatt said...

Do your research people! I was using cinnamon for medicinal purposes. Ceylon and cassia are very different. I almost damaged my liver because I was using the wrong one. FYI- Suraj cinnamon flat sticks you buy at local indian grocery stores are cassia not ceylon. I confirmed this with a chef from sapna foods, inc that distributes this product.I now buy my ceylon cinnamon from indusorganics.com for $13.99 for 6 ounces of ground ceylon cinnamon. Stay healthy and God bless!

SeasonWithSpice said...

Thanks a lot for sharing this useful information about real and cassia cinnamon.

I would like to unfold the difference b/w Real and cassia cinnamon.

Real cinnamon sticks soft in comparison cassia cinnamon sticks (Hard sticks)

Cassia Cinnamon surface is rough in comparison real cinnamon surface have smooth

know other hidden difference b/w real and cassia cinnamon at http://wannabehealthyandfit.wordpress.com/2014/05/02/how-to-identify-real-cinnamon/

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