It’s so good to take some bark and add it straight to your morning tea or a spicy pumpkin soup, eat it with a doughnut or a snickerdoodle. But not every tree bark is ok, we are talking cinnamon here. One of the most popular and fragrant spices used in both savoury and sweet preparations is obtained from the trees of the Cinnamomum genus: either Cinnamomum verum or Cinnamomum cassia (and some others of less significance). And there’s a huge difference between them.
First is translated as “true cinnamon” and it really should be considered as the genuine spice that everybody aggrandized throughout the epochs. It’s always been highly valued and it was regarded as a nice gift for monarchs or an offering to gods to please them by burning the cinnamon. Cinnamon has always been an expensive product. Europeans didn’t even know what it really was: some sources stated that it was fished out in nets from the Nile. Later we learned that the spice was obtained from the inner bark of trees growing mainly in Sri Lanka.
Lankan or Ceylon cinnamon is sold on the island in bunches of brittle, delicate and breakable bark quills that almost look like birds’ feathers. When grated, it’s fine, light brown, more subtle and aromatic than the second variety -– Cinnamomum cassia or simply cassia. This is the most common commercial type of cinnamon though. Chances are, you buy it at your local store when you get spices for your roll buns. If you happen to see cassia in its quill form, you’ll notice that it’s reddish brown in appearance and woody in texture. It’s much thicker than the “true cinnamon” because all of the layers of bark are used to roll cassia, inner and outer. If you’ve ever bought whole cinnamon spice that looked like a single rolled piece, then it definitely was cassia, because Ceylon cinnamon has many layers resembling a cigar more than a piece of bark. It easily crumbles right in your hands whereas cassia is sold in one piece and it can only be broken with a chisel and a hammer.
But when grated, we love cinnamon, and likely won’t pay attention to the source of this condiment. People all over the world love it. It’s used in chocolate preparations, in Christmas pickling, in beef noodle soup with anise and ginger, in cooking rice, morning porridge with pear or chicken curry. It’s great in eggnog and spiced wine, but one of the most superior combinations is cinnamon-sugar-apple toast – a buttered toast of white bread sprinkled with cinnamon sugar mixture and smeared with apple jam. A truly appetizing snack that pairs well with morning coffee.