Cinnamon vs. Cassia: different types for a range of flavors

cinnamon chips and chai
cinnamon chips and chai

Did you know there are over 250 types of cinnamon? I didn’t until I researched it after having a rousing discussion on the topic of cinnamon with my favorite taster, my hubby. That’s when my deep dive into cinnamon began.

He mentioned that he thought the cinnamon we had was old because the flavor was weak. I knew that I had recently purchased that particular cinnamon because I buy in bulk due to our intense love of the sweet spice. When I buy bulk cinnamon I choose the Ceylon variety because I have noted that I like the flavor. The company I get cinnamon from was out of it for awhile so I had to break down and get a jar from the market.

The one from the grocery store noted that it was pure Cassia Cinnamon. An article from Bon Appetit explained that “there are three specific types of cassia cinnamon—Indonesian, Chinese, and Saigon—all with different levels of flavor.”

The magazine’s post also mentioned that “Ceylon cinnamon, a variety sometimes referred to (as) ’true cinnamon’ … (has a) flavor and aroma (that) are extremely mild and delicate—it definitely reads as ‘cinnamon,’ but with subtle, almost floral notes.”

This could explain how hubby saw the fresh cinnamon as stale. The recent batch of cinnamon wasn’t stale but it did have a more mild scent. This was due to its variety, being the Ceylon type, and not its freshness. So, in comparison, the Cassia cinnamon we had before was perceived as fresher because it had a stronger smell. He was looking for the scent of Red Hots cinnamon candies.

Now I was onto something. I realized that not only did the flavors of the cinnamons change from mild to robust, but the aromas of the cinnamon varieties could be seen to range from subtle to powerful.

Okay, I know this is a baking blog, but this is important in baking. The type of cinnamon you purchase can have an effect on the outcome of the baked dish. The taste will still be essentially of cinnamon, but it may be more floral than in-your-face depending on the cinnamon you pick.

cinnamon vs cassia
cinnamon vs cassia

The recommendation from the Cinnamon Vogue spice shop says, “For fine desserts Ceylon Cinnamon is an absolute must because it is subtle, smells very mild and is slightly sweeter in taste. It never takes center stage in the recipe but adds a very complex flavor.”

Admittedly, I agree with these cinnamon purveyors, although they may be biased because that is the variety they specialize in. But I know that if you want pungency, then you should look to the Cassia varieties of Indonesian, Chinese, and Saigon.

Furthermore, it dawned on me that when one of my recipes lists “1 teaspoon cinnamon” in the ingredients, that your experience may differ if you use the more robust Cassia. You should test the amount and see what works for you with your spice brand and selection.

Then there’s the matter of taste preference. I’ll keep my complex Ceylon and leave the hot Cassias to my hubby. Whew! All this talk of cinnamon has made me thirsty, so I’m headed to the kitchen to make a sweet spiced chai. And then maybe some cinnamon muffins.

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