Cassia Cinnamon: The Spicier Cinnamon

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The cassia cinnamon tree is an evergreen and comes from Southeastern China and still grows wild there today. While you can still find wild trees in Guangdong and Guangxi, they make up the minority of China’s cassia. Most of these trees are cultivated. Cassia cinnamon trees are also indigenous to other parts of Asia like Myanmar and Assam. The Saigon variety of cassia cinnamon has been grown in Vietnam for a long time.

Cassia cinnamon is one of several trees from the Cinnamomum genus and has been referred to as bastard cinnamon or false cinnamon; Ceylon cinnamon is called true cinnamon.

The spice consists of bark from the cassia cinnamon tree. A square of this bark is cut from a tree once it reaches the right age and curls up to form a tube. The next step in processing it involves drying and aging this tube.

Cassia cinnamon is referred to as kwei-shi in many Chinese dialects. The capital of Guangxi Province is named Kweilin after the spice. It was given the name in 216 BCE by Qin Shihuangdi, the Qin Dynasty’s first emperor.

Cassia was being traded in the first century. Traders shipped it from Indian harbors to Somalia, but its true origin was still a mystery at this point in history. Eventually, traders from Persia discovered its source. The spice was named dar-chin, with the dar possibly being a reference to aromatic wood and the chin being a reference to China. Dar is still used as a term for spices by the Uygur people of Western China while darchibi is the Bengali name for cassia.

Cassia would be introduced to Europe by Jewish traders who referred to the spice as ketsiah. It was not until the 19th century that cassia cinnamon began to grow in popularity. The origins of cassia cinnamon and other members of the cinnamon family were often the subjects of fantastically colorful myths. Herodotus wrote that Arabs harvested cinnamon from the nests of huge birds. He also believed that the spice grew in shallow Arabian lakes and was protected by swarms of bats.

Cassia cinnamon flavor profile

Cassia cinnamon has a simpler and more straightforward flavor when compared to Ceylon cinnamon, even though the two are very similar. Cassia cinnamon is pungent, peppery, and sweet. It is closer to the flavoring used in cinnamon candy than the slightly more savory Ceylon variety.

Health benefits of cassia cinnamon

Cassia cinnamon has a long history of use as a medicine. It is particularly important in traditional Chinese medicine. Its health benefits come from compounds like:

  • Minerals: Cassia cinnamon contains calcium as well as manganese. It also has trace amounts of other minerals like iron and potassium.
  • Cinnamaldehyde: The source of cassia cinnamon’s intense flavor profile is cinnamaldehyde, an essential oil. Cinnamaldehyde also has various important health benefits.
  • Diabetes: Cassia cinnamon contains a compound with the apparent ability to function like insulin, which means that it can move blood sugar from the bloodstream and into cells.
  • Gastrointestinal ailments: Compounds in cassia cinnamon essential oil have antimicrobial properties and therefore may be useful for treating foodborne illnesses and other gastrointestinal problems.

Note: Cassia cinnamon contains a blood thinner called coumarin. Coumarin can damage your liver if you consume it in large amounts.

Common uses

Cassia cinnamon is best known for its role in western pastries like cinnamon buns and apple pie but it is also an important ingredient in Vietnamese pho and in Indian garam masala. It provides the cinnamon note in traditional mulled wines as well as in cider.