Cinnamon spice has been known for thousands of years. We use it to add a little kick to our baked meals, mixed into hot beverages, and in all sorts of aromatics that give off a warm cinnamon smell. The usefulness of cinnamon goes far beyond these common comforts, however.
TYPES OF CINNAMON AND WHICH ONE TO PREFER
There are two major types of cinnamon for culinary use: Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum or Cinnamomum zeylanicum, also known as “true cinnamon”) and Cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum aromaticaum and Cinnamomum burmannii, also known as “Saigon cinnamon”). Ceylon cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka, whereas cassia cinnamon is native to Burma and also grown in China and Vietnam.
You are more likely to find cassia cinnamon in the United states and Canada which is less expensive. While both cassia and Ceylon cinnamon are derived from the inner bark of Cinnamomum trees, Ceylon cinnamon is preferable.
Ceylon cinnamon is typically more expensive than any of the cassia versions, and it is also the cinnamon more closely associated with potential health benefits involving blood sugar regulation. Another advantage to Ceylon cinnamon is its very low coumarin levels. Coumarin is a naturally occurring toxin which has the potential to damage the liver in high doses, and cassia cinnamon is a main source of coumarin. So for people who are cinnamon lovers and consume large amounts of cinnamon, Ceylon Cinnamon is the best choice.
HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE CINNAMON TYPES
Ceylon cinnamon has a sweeter and more delicate flavor whereas cassia cinnamon is slightly darker in color and has a stronger flavor. The problem is that there is no way to distinguish between Ceylon cinnamon and cassia powders. So when you purchase cinnamon powder, try to find on the label the source of the cinnamon or call the customer service or manufacturer to find this information.
If you buy a cinnamon stick, Ceylon cinnamon has a different texture than cassia stick. The bark of Ceylon cinnamon is thinner and the stick will show multiple layers of a thinner bark. Cassia stick, on the other hand, is thicker, comes in one piece and doesn’t show multiple layers of any kind.