June 4, 2012

The case of the Cinnamon imposter


"Do you know the difference between Cinnamon and Cassia"?

The question from the shop assistant takes me a bit by surprise. It shakes me out of my reverie amongst the spice shelves at Herbies in Rozelle, the one stop shop for all things spicy.

"Eh... Yes", I mutter, wanting to add a droll "doh".

Of course I know the difference between Cassia and Cinnamon. I'm pretty sure Cassia is like a Cinnamon imposter. A fake, less fragrant stepsister of Cinnamon.

How wrong I am.

I soon find out that in Europe most Cinnamon sold is actually Cassia. In Sweden Mexican and Indian cinnamon is also common. It's no wonder it's confusing.

Swedish journo Lisa Förare Winbladh writes that there are about 50 cinnamon related species of trees in the world but only one true type cinnamon - Ceylon Cinnamon. Discovered by the Dutch in Sri Lanka it is very delicate and mild. I sniff it at Herbies and to me the fancy cinnamon is the one that smells like the imposter. Delicate indeed. More like barely smells like anything at all.

At Herbies they tell me that it's not really suitable for baking and can be ruined by cooking. I later find out it is best suited in desserts or perchance with an apple compote.

Lisa Förare Winbladh writes that what we actually know and love as Cinnamon is almost always the stronger, more robust Cassia or other cinnamon varieties.
Growing up in Sweden I have fond memories of this lovely spice. Sprinkled over rice porridge for Christmas, in gingerbread, cakes and last but not least the Swedish Classic Cinnamon Buns.

I leave Herbies with a bag of Bakers Cassia and some high quality Cardamom seeds. When I try the cinnamon out a bit later I conclude that it's some of the best "Cinnamon" aka Cassia I've ever used.

 If you're a fan of this subtle and comforting spice I highly recommend Lisa Förare Winblad's article about cinnamon and cassia . You can read it in Swedish on her blog.


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