After black pepper, cinnamon is easily the most popular spice in the world. There really isn’t a single cuisine that doesn’t use it widely. It’s also one of the world’s oldest spices – it was traded as currency in ancient China.
There are two major types of cinnamon, and this is where it gets confusing. In North America, the spice we know as cinnamon is actually cassia (sometimes called Chinese cinnamon). It is very common and has a strong, spicy flavour due to its high level of volatile oil. True cinnamon (also known as Sri Lankan cinnamon) is almost unknown in North America. It is lighter in colour than cassia and has a more subtle and complex flavour. While cassia is good for candies, curries and rich foods where a strong flavour is needed, true cinnamon is usually reserved for delicate desserts and baking. Both types of cinnamon come from the inner bark of trees related to the laurel. The bark is stripped and hand-rolled into quills by skilled workers called cinnamon peelers.
We carry true cinnamon in both quill and ground forms, plus three varieties of cassia – Indonesian, Chinese and Vietnamese. Indonesian “Korintje” cassia is the standard common variety of cinnamon used every day in Canada. Chinese “Tung Hing” cassia is stronger, with a woody spiciness. Vietnamese “Saigon” cassia has the highest level of volatile oil and is far stronger than Indonesian and Chinese. Its flavour is surprisingly intense – perfect for real cinnamon lovers.
All cinnamons lose their flavour quickly once ground, so it’s best to buy frequently in smaller amounts.