Whether cinnamon is one of your most-used baking spices or you only use it occasionally, you may be surprised to know that there is more than one kind of cinnamon. Cinnamon has a distinct flavor, but it can vary slightly depending on where it comes from. The type of cinnamon that most people recognize as cinnamon (especially in the United States) is Cassia cinnamon. This is one of two primary types of cinnamon; the other is Ceylon cinnamon.
Both of these varieties of cinnamon are loaded with antioxidants and can offer various health benefits. But this is pretty much where the similarities end. Let’s dive into what makes these cinnamons different and how you can use the unique flavor of Ceylon cinnamon to make some delicious creations.
What Is Ceylon Cinnamon?
Ceylon cinnamon is a type of cinnamon that many people call “true cinnamon.” While this isn’t necessarily accurate, since both Ceylon cinnamon and Cassia cinnamon are types of cinnamon, it is the more prestigious of the two.
Ceylon cinnamon is more expensive than its more common counterpart and much harder to find at your local grocery store. This is because the process of creating Ceylon cinnamon is much more labor-intensive — which we’ll get into in the following section. You can find Ceylon cinnamon in both stick and ground forms, allowing it to be used in various ways in the kitchen.
Ceylon Cinnamon vs. Cassia Cinnamon
Why do people call Ceylon cinnamon “true cinnamon” and, by extension, call Cassia cinnamon “fake?” Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. Some people feel that the more abundant Cassia cinnamon is “fake” simply because it does not come from the same region and variety of trees that Ceylon cinnamon does. Some feel it is “fake” because it is produced in a much less time-consuming and labor-intensive way. Others believe Ceylon cinnamon is the “true cinnamon” because it comes from the Cinnamomum verum tree.
No matter why someone may say that one of these cinnamons is better than the other, it is important to note that they are both varieties of cinnamon. This said, there are a few differences between the two.
The first major difference between Ceylon cinnamon and Cassia cinnamon is their origins. The more commonly-found Cassia cinnamon originates from Southern China and other areas of Southern Asia. There, Cinnamomum cassia trees grow abundantly — hence the less expensive price tag of Cassia cinnamon.
Ceylon cinnamon, on the other hand, is native to Sri Lanka and the southern parts of India. This cinnamon comes from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum verum tree. Because these trees span over less land than the Cinnamomum cassia trees, this variety of cinnamon is less abundant than the typical Cassia cinnamon you can find at the supermarket.
Another major distinction between Cassia and Ceylon cinnamon is how they are made. While both varieties of cinnamon come from the bark of a Cinnamomum tree (either cassia or verum), the way they are collected is quite different. Cassia cinnamon is collected by removing the outer layer of the cinnamon tree’s bark when it is 20 years old. This 1/16-inch layer is cleaned of its hard grey skin and left out to dry. While drying, the skin curls and forms the distinctive cinnamon stick “swirl” that many of us are accustomed to seeing in stores.
Ceylon cinnamon comes to us in a more labor-intensive manner. First, thin branches are trimmed and immersed in water to soften the outer layer of the bark. Next, harvesters scrape off this outer layer to reveal the delicate inner bark from which the Ceylon cinnamon is made. This inner bark is then peeled off in paper-thin layers to be dried. These fine layers twist and crinkle as they dry — but this is not the end of the process. After the layers are dry, a cinnamon harvester will wrap these layers into soft and crumbly cigar-shaped sticks. Once completed, the Ceylon cinnamon sticks are ready for sale.
When ground, Ceylon and Cassia cinnamon are indistinguishable by appearance, but this is certainly not the case in stick form. Most of us are familiar with the classic “swirl” of the Cassia cinnamon stick, but many of us have not seen the more expensive and rare Ceylon cinnamon stick as it is harder to find in local stores. Where the Cassia cinnamon sticks are thicker with wider swirls, the Ceylon cinnamon sticks are comprised of thin sheets tightly rolled together.
Cassia cinnamon sticks are also dark brown-red, whereas Ceylon cinnamon sticks are lighter tan-brown.
Cinnamaldehyde is the primary essential oil in cinnamon. Both varieties of cinnamon have this oil, but they differ quite drastically in the amount of this particular compound. For example, Cassia cinnamon has approximately 95% of the oil as cinnamaldehyde. Ceylon cinnamon, on the other hand, contains only around 50-63% cinnamaldehyde.
This difference in cinnamaldehyde can explain the dramatic flavor differences between these two cinnamons. Because Ceylon cinnamon has much less cinnamaldehyde, it is characterized by a much milder, sweeter, and subtly floral flavor than the strong, spicy cinnamon flavor you may be used to. This makes Ceylon cinnamon extremely well-suited for desserts or other treats.
How to Use Ceylon Cinnamon
Since Ceylon cinnamon has a much more delicate flavor, it is perfectly suited for sweeter preparations.
Here are some ways to use this delicious light cinnamon in your kitchen:
- Use it in place of Cassia cinnamon in your favorite fall pies — like apple, pumpkin, and sweet potato — for a delicious cinnamon flair.
- Sprinkle it on top of your favorite hot cup of coffee, tea latte, or hot chocolate for an extra treat!
- Mix it with melted dark chocolate or dark chocolate ganache for a decadent ice cream topper, chocolate truffle, or even a seasonal chocolate bark.
- Sprinkle it on top of your favorite baked treats for a lovely extra kick.
- Make the most indulgent cinnamon rolls with orange icing to play off the subtle floral notes in the Ceylon cinnamon.
Are there any cinnamon lovers out there? If you proudly call yourself a lover of this delicious spice, Ceylon cinnamon is definitely worth seeking out. While it is more expensive and challenging to find, it is worth it — especially if you are a fan of cinnamon treats. Luckily, we don’t have to rely only on local supermarkets when it comes to shopping for spices and other groceries, so you can find delicious organic Ceylon cinnamon without needing to search the racks of all of the stores in your area!
If you want to spice up your dessert game with a new take on some cinnamon classics (or spice up some not-so-cinnamon desserts), check out our Organic Ceylon Cinnamon!
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