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Learn to differentiate Ceylon cinnamon from cassia

Learn to differentiate Ceylon cinnamon from cassia

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  Knowing the spices in depth

Cinnamon Tree

Ceylon cinnamon, Chinese cinnamon or cassia, Saigon cinnamon ... if you have started to research something, you will surely have been surprised to find all these names for what we only call just cinnamon, but ... are they different varieties or are they the same plant? How are they different from each other? How can i distinguish them which is better? (buy cinnamon of pure Ceylon)

Origin of cinnamom

Cinnamon is one of the best known spices since ancient times. The Egyptians already referred to its use as one of the fundamental elements in the embalming of corpses, and uses of cinnamon oil have been found in ancient Greek texts.

Its provenance has always been surrounded by a certain mystery, historians referring to different legends for its origin. Herodotus, for example, reported that a large bird used it to make its nests, built entirely out of human reach. So to get the cinnamon, the men offered him big pieces of meat that the bird took to its nest until it was too heavy and fell to the ground, where you could catch the cinnamon ( note. Some sources attribute this story to the Roman historian Pliny the Elder ).

Ambited by Europeans for many centuries, both Christopher Columbus and other discoverers believed they had discovered the cinnamon tree in America. However, it was not until the 16th century that the Europeans - specifically the Portuguese - discovered the cinnamon tree on the island of Ceylon (today Sri Lanka), which was first occupied by them, later passing to the Dutch and British, who owned the cinnamon world monopoly for many years.

Today, the world production of Ceylon cinnamon is still mainly concentrated in Sri Lanka and on the southeast coast of India.

 canela-ceylan-vs-cassia Canela de Ceilán (left) vs canela cassia ( right)

Different cinnamon sticks, from Ceylon, China, from Saigon ...

The Cinamomum variety is made up of about twelve species of trees, of which only three or four are commercially exploited.

Apart from the Cinamomum Verum, Cinamomum Aromaticum, Cinamomum Loureioi and Cinamomum Burmanii are mainly exploited.

In general these last three are known as Chinese cinnamon (the variety aromaticum), Vietnam (burmanii) and Saigon (loureii).

Most significant differences between cinnamon

Cinnamon is obtained by drying and rolling up the inner bark of the cinnamon tree, the phloem. This inner bark (its name comes from the Greek φλοιός -bark- is responsible for transporting food and sugars from the tree from the leaves, where photosynthesis has been carried out, to the rest of the plant. This inner bark dries and coils and is what constitutes cinnamon.

In the case of Ceylon cinnamon sticks, sticks, sticks or cigars, they are made by rolling multiple layers, thin and brittle, while in the case of other cinnamon sticks, they consist of a single layer of bark, much more thick, enough, and much harder.

At the organoleptic level, Ceylon cinnamon has a sweeter and more delicate flavor, while Cassia cinnamon is slightly darker in color, and Saigon cinnamon usually has a stronger aroma and flavor.

But, can you distinguish ground Ceylon cinnamon from others?

ground cinnamon at home

Very often you ask us how you can distinguish one cinnamon from another once it is ground.

Unfortunately, once ground and with the naked eye it is almost impossible to distinguish one from the other: the Saigon cinnamon is usually somewhat darker, and its flavor slightly more intense, and not as sweet as that of Ceylon. Cassia scent is not as delicate. Ceylon cinnamon is usually lighter in color, but this cannot be taken as a rule, since it may depend on environmental factors during grinding and also on the actual harvest or selection of cinnamon that has been made.

For this reason, when buying cinnamon powder, we must search the label for the origin or scientific name of cinnamon to try to find this information.

It may also be worth, as a general term, to consider that when it is simply labeled as cinnamon, we will be facing cassia, since it is much cheaper than the others.

Comparison table of the different types of cinnamon

Name Cinnamon Ceylon Chinese Cinnamon Cinnamon from Saigon Cinnamon from Vietnam
N. scientist Cinnamomum Zeylanicum,
Cinnamomum Verum
Cinnamomum aromaticum Cinnamomum loureiroi Cinnamomum burmannii
Organoleptic characteristics Smooth and sweet tasting slightly spicy sweet and slightly spicy slightly spicy
Color Soft brown Between dark brown and tan Between dark brown and tan Between dark brown and tan
Positive Delicate flavor, almost non-existent amount of coumarin Cheap price Intense flavor Cheap price
Negative High price
Not suitable for decoration
High coumarin levels High coumarin levels High coumarin levels

IMPORTANT: The marketing of all these cinnamon sticks is completely legal, although the European Union has established limits tried to establish limits to its consumption due to the high percentage of coumarin present in cassia cinnamon, the most used for some very popular desserts -mainly the well-known" cinnamon rolls "- in Holland, Denmark ...

Companies as important as Ducros or McCormick use both Saigon cinnamon, thus indicating it on their packaging, such as China or Vietnam.

World production of Ceylon cinnamon

Country Quantity / tons. % Variety
Indonesia ~ 90,000 tons. 43% fall in cassia
China ~ 62,000 tons. 33% cinnamon cassia
Vietnam ~ 32,000 tons. 15% cinnamon from Saigon
Sri Lanka ~ 17,000 tons. 8% Ceylon Cinnamon

(2014 data)


Use in decoration

The cinnamon that you will see used in decoration (centerpieces, candle decorations, as well as in different ornamental crafts, etc.) is always cassia cinnamon (mainly of the aromaticum variety), for two very clear reasons: < / p>

  • its price, much lower than Ceylon cinnamon
  • the hardness of its shell or bark, which does not dissolve, tolerating any manipulation very well (contrary to what happens with Ceylon, made up of many delicate and brittle layers).







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