Types of Cinnamon

Cinnamon is often seen as a simple spice with a single flavor profile commonly associated with fall flavors. However, in reality, various types of cinnamon have been cultivated for hundreds of years, each offering distinct flavor complexities, origins, and unique attributes that make them perfect for specific dishes. Keep reading to learn about various cinnamon types and their history, uses, and features.

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Where Does Cinnamon Come From?

Cinnamon comes from the inner bark of various evergreen trees in the Cinnamomum genus. Hundreds of trees are in the Cinnamomum genus, but only a few are responsible for cinnamon production. Cinnamon is grown on plantations in Asia, the West Indies, and South America. Some countries include Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

How Does Cinnamon Grow

How Does Cinnamon Grow?

Cinnamon originally grows as the inner bark of an evergreen tree. It takes these trees at least two years to grow before their cinnamon is ready for a sustainable and responsible harvest.

How Is Cinnamon Harvested?

When the time comes to harvest cinnamon, the outside of the tree's bark is peeled off and scraped, exposing the inner bark. The larger pieces cut off from the inner bark will be turned into cinnamon powder, while the narrower pieces will be sun-dried and cured into cinnamon sticks.

Cinnamon Types

Below, we go over four different types of cinnamon and their unique characteristics:

1. Ceylon Cinnamon

Ceylon Cinnamon

Ceylon cinnamon, also known as “true cinnamon” referencing its Latin tree name Cinnamomum verum, is the most preferred cinnamon commonly found in the kitchens of Mexico and Europe. Ceylon cinnamon has a light brown hue made of multiple thin, delicate layers of the inner tree bark.

This type of cinnamon is more expensive since it is harvested in a crafted process, specifically during the early rainy season in Sri Lanka when the cinnamon’s aromatics are most concentrated. Ceylon cinnamon has a low volatile oil level, so use it right after it's ground to maximize potential flavor. With 10 varieties, Ceylon cinnamon makes dishes vary in sharpness, sweetness, and spiciness.

  • What Does Ceylon Cinnamon Taste Like? Subtle, floral, fruity, and slightly bitter.
  • Ceylon Cinnamon Uses: Best in milk-based recipes such as custards, creams, Mexican hot chocolate, and Horchata. It also works well with jams, fruit butter, European and Latin American cuisines, and Middle Eastern tomato sauce.
  • Where to Buy Ceylon Cinnamon: Offered at some grocery stores, spice shops, or specialty online retailers.
  • Ceylon Cinnamon Origin: Sri Lanka, a South Asian island previously known as “Ceylon”
  • Other Names for Ceylon Cinnamon: True Cinnamon and Mexican Cinnamon.

2. Saigon Cinnamon

Saigon Cinnamon

Saigon cinnamon is a type of Cassia cinnamon grown and harvested in the central mountain forests of Vietnam and comes from the Cinnamomum loureiroi tree. Saigon cinnamon is harvested in the same way as Korintje cinnamon, but Saigon cinnamon has a higher essential oil content. This quality makes its unique flavors more pronounced than Korintje’s.

  • What Does Saigon Cinnamon Taste Like? Robust, spicy, sharp, rich, and sweet.
  • Saigon Cinnamon Uses: Cinnamon-forward recipes like cinnamon rolls, coffee cake, pumpkin pie spice mix, snickerdoodles, and different types of donuts.
  • Where to Buy Saigon Cinnamon: Chain department stores, grocery stores, spice shops, and online retailers.
  • Saigon Cinnamon Origin: Vietnam

3. Cassia Cinnamon

Cassia Cinnamon

Cassia cinnamon is the most commonly used cinnamon in North America. Cassia cinnamon, or Chinese cinnamon, comes from the Cinnamomum cassia tree. It has a dark brown hue and is made of a singular thick, hard layer from the base of its tree, carved off with a knife and laid to sun-dry. Cassia cinnamon is much less expensive than Ceylon cinnamon because its harvesting process is much simpler.

  • What Does Cassia Cinnamon Taste Like? Sweet, warm, hints of spice, and smooth.
  • Cassia Cinnamon Uses: Baking and cooking with blended flavors, muffins, fall and winter pies, bread pudding, quick bread, granola, scones, Chinese five-spice blend, and other Chinese dishes.
  • Where to Buy Cassia Cinnamon: Grocery stores, spice shops, and online retailers.
  • Cassia Cinnamon Origin: China

4. Korintje Cinnamon

Korintje Cinnamon

Korintje cinnamon is a type of Cassia cinnamon grown and harvested in Indonesia and comes from the Cinnamomum burmannii tree. Korintje cinnamon is harvested in the same way as Cassia and Saigon cinnamon.

  • What Does Korintje Cinnamon Taste Like? Woody, sweet, smooth, with hints of clove and pepper.
  • Korintje Cinnamon Uses: Holiday baking or holiday cocktails, pickled foods like chutney, steamed in large pots of rice, or Indonesian curries and other types of curries.
  • Where to Buy Korintje Cinnamon: Online suppliers, specialty spice shops, and chain department stores.
  • Korintje Cinnamon Origin: Indonesia

Cassia vs Ceylon Cinnamon

Cassia and Ceylon cinnamon have different tastes, textures, and bark colors. Cassia cinnamon has a strong flavor and texture with a dark brown color. Ceylon cinnamon is softer and more refined in flavor and texture with a light brown hue. These differences are due to how the cinnamons are grown and harvested. Due to Ceylon's tedious growing and harvesting process, it has an exponentially higher price point than Cassia.

Cassia vs Ceylon Cinnamon

How to Use Cinnamon Sticks

There are three different ways you can use cinnamon sticks:

  • Keep Them Whole: Use whole cinnamon sticks for steeping into soups, sauces, broths, milk, and making mulled wine. You can also keep them intact to steam into rice or in a slow cooker that breaks down meat to impart a soft cinnamon flavor that will build up the richness of your dish. Whole cinnamon sticks are ideal for decorating fall and winter cakes and other baked goods.
  • Make Freshly Ground Cinnamon: If you want the freshest-tasting cinnamon possible, purchase whole sticks of cinnamon and grind them down into a cinnamon powder.
  • Crack Into Smaller Pieces: Breaking your cinnamon sticks into smaller pieces allows you to steep these broken quills into teas and other hot beverages.

How to Grind Cinnamon Sticks

Use an electric spice grinder or a mortar and pestle to grind cinnamon into a fine powder to achieve the freshest flavor. If you only plan to use a small portion of the cinnamon stick at a time, you can swipe the cinnamon stick back and forth on a handheld grater.

How Much Cinnamon Is in a Stick?

One cinnamon stick yields one teaspoon of ground cinnamon.

Cinnamon Sticks vs Ground

Ground cinnamon is desiccated (or dried) from big pieces of cinnamon. It does not have as much potency as cinnamon sticks because the ground cinnamon loses its potency during desiccation. Though cinnamon sticks can be more expensive than ground cinnamon, they pack in a ton of extra flavor.

How Long Does Cinnamon Last?

Storing ground cinnamon properly in an airtight container allows it to last for two to three years. Although, it is best to try and use ground cinnamon within six months. Cinnamon sticks can last around four to five years when stored properly in an airtight container. Despite what many people believe, spices can go bad, especially with improper storage conditions.

To the inexperienced observer, a single variety of shaved and preserved tree bark may appear mundane. However, this unassuming ingredient has the power to enhance your dish with a completely different flavor profile. The diverse range of cinnamon varieties cultivated worldwide possess distinct flavors, making this seemingly ordinary spice capable of delivering a truly unique culinary experience.

Posted in: Bakeries|Kitchen & Cooking Tips|By Val Goodrich
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