Cassia vs Real Cinnamon

What is the difference between Chinese and Ceylon Cinnamon, and what does it mean to your cooking?
By Tamara Novacoviç

Just a few days before Christmas, I got a lovely and surprising Christmas gifts from Reese and Mark of Season with Spice. I wrote about this beautiful site on several occasions, check it out and feel free to submit your photo, which will lead to the original recipe on your site. The recipe must contain at least one spice. It’s all about spices, right? Make sure to check out interesting spice section on the site, which is exactly where I had my epiphany about cinnamon and first found out that the one we buy here isn’t the real deal.
I hadn’t been aware that we actually use the so called cassia cinnamon, also referred to as Chinese cinnamon. The real deal is called Ceylon cinnamon and it’s basically the inner bark of an evergreen tree that originates from Sri Lanka. Here in Croatia, I haven’t been able to find it anywhere, it seems we just don’t import it. We use cheaper cassia. Therefore, you can imagine my surprise when a beautiful bag of Ceylon cinnamon arrived at my doorstep just before Christmas! Just think of all the cakes…and mulled wine…

What is the difference? As you can see on my photos, cassia is darker in color, its structure is tougher, its taste more pungent and stronger, its stick consists of one thick layer rolled in both sides, its tube is hollow. And it’s cheaper. Ceylon or real cinnamon has milder and more pleasant aroma, it is sweeter, lighter in color and its stick consists of multiple layers which form a filled tube. One of the most discussed differences between the two is the amount of coumarin, which is 5 % in cassia and only 0.4 % in Celyon cinnamon. Coumarin is a moderately toxic component and, as you can see, there’s very little of it in the real cinnamon. Although this is nothing to be too concerned about, we should use cinnamon in moderate amounts, if we use cassia. Just as we should be moderate with everything else.

I’ve used this cinnamon in mulled wine and tea mostly. I have also used it in coffee and some cakes. For drinks, I just roughly grated it, or cooked wine with whole sticks in it. For cakes, however, I finely ground it in my multipractic. My favorite drink right now is orange-ginger tea, into which I add some of this cinnamon and honey.

Tamara Novakoviç

Tamara Novakoviç

Tamara Novakovic is a passionate self-taught cook, food blogger, freelance food writer and photographer behind bite-my-cake.blogspot.com. Her life journey has led her through Faculty of Humanities in Zagreb, Croatia to discovering passion for making cakes. She is currently a weekly food columnist for Croatian newspaper V magazine and food magazine Repete.

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6 Comments
  1. Hi
    I would like to know difference between cylon cinnamon & cassia cinnamon .
    Some one is on blood thinners is there any effect of consumption of cassia.

    Thanks
    Amit

  2. Tamara

    Enjoyed your review of True Cinnamon and cassia. Anyone and anything that educates people on the differences between the two products is great. Both products are good, although I am partial to True Cinnamon for obvious reasons, but the high content of coumarin is becoming an issue, particularly when you take into consideration desserts or cookies that are consumed by children (with smaller mass) in almost same quantities as adults. Most countries are currently importing and marketing cassia as ‘cinnamon’ with no warnings of potential danger, since they feel coumarin levels too low, but not taking into consideration kids and their consumption patterns, particularly when it comes to sweets. Thanks again for your support of True Cinnamon and look forward to checking out your blog on a regular basis.

    Best
    Daniel

  3. Great job Tamara. On behalf of Sri Lanka thank you for pointing out the difference. They say good cooks know their spices.

    You will find that many recipes that were meant to use Ceylon Cinnamon erroneously use Cassia Cinnamon. The taste profile of Ceylon Cinnamon is very different. although they are close cousins. It’s like the difference between Basil and Oregano.

    Ceylon Cinnamon is very subtle and never takes center stage but creates wonderfully sophisticated flavors when mixed with other ingredients. It’s not harsh and spicy like Cassia Cinnamon. In fact you would be hard pressed know there is Cinnamon in any dish that uses Ceylon Cinnamon, but it creates complex flavors that is out of this World.

    By the way if you want to try our Ceylon Cinnamon Tea, the best in the World by the way, just shoot us an email and we will send a complimentary can.

  4. I am Staying in South Africa, we use to buy casia in our supermarkets, but cant find it any more.
    I am willing to import a box or two from Sri Lanka or where we can order this from.
    Pleae let me know how te get hold of this product.

    Louis

  5. Ceylon cinnamon comes from Sri Lanka. Cassia grows in China, Indonesia and few others. Ceylon cinnamon is more expensive than Cassia, because of the quality and unique hand crafted harvesting process.

    You can’t buy Ceylon cinnamon in every store or a Supermarket. Some local spice stores specifically sell this pure Ceylon cinnamon. Also, you can buy it online from genuine websites or internet marketplaces such as eBay.

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