Cinnamon / Cassia
Cinnamon - [Cinnamonum verum (zeylanicum)]
Cassia - [Cinnamomum cassia (aromaticum)]
Cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and the Malabar coast of India but now grown also in the West Indies and South America. Cassia is native to Burma and is grown in China, Vietnam and Indonesia with Vietnamese (Cinnamomum loureiroi) considered the highest quality. The aromatic bark of both these trees is peeled and dried for use as a spice. The two are easily confused but pretty much interchangeable in recipes.
Shown are long Cinnamon sticks (top), standard U.S. Cassia sticks (center), broken Cinnamon common in Indian groceries (right) and ground Cinnamon/Cassia (left). Preference for and availability of these spices is a mater of region. Cassia predominates in the U.S. but is difficult to find in Europe where Cinnamon predominates. China and Southeast Asia use Cassia almost exclusively. Cinnamon is used in India and Sri Lanka. Cinnamon generally has a cleaner, sweeter flavor and Cassia has a touch of bitterness.
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Storing: There is really no excuse for buying ground cinnamon which degrades rapidly, since it can easily be ground as needed in a whirling blade coffee grinder. Sticks are very durable and will keep for a couple of years if kept away from sunlight and heat.