Even though vanilla is our most prized crop, we grow over 20 types of herbs and spices which we are equally proud of. Amongst these is cinnamon, the reddish, woody, aromatic spice you sprinkle on toast and use to flavor dishes such as applesauce and pumpkin pie. You might be surprised to know that the stuff we were raised eating most likely isn’t true cinnamon at all! In the United States, most products sold as cinnamon are actually cassia.
True cinnamon and cassia are cousins; both are made of the dried bark of species of Cinnamomum evergreen trees.Cassia originated in southern China. There are three distinct types of cassia available today: Indonesian cassia — the familiar kind mass-produced as cinnamon for the North American market; Chinese cassia — a rarer version that is both sweeter and more peppery and is ideal for baked goods; and Vietnamese cassia — a type only recently available in North America, with an intense flavor and aroma (only about two-thirds the amount of cinnamon called for in recipes is necessary with this variety).
All cassia is a dark, reddish brown and has a stronger, somewhat harsher flavor than its cousin, true, or Ceylon, cinnamon. True cinnamon originated from Sri Lanka. It has a paler tan color, a softer, more crumbly texture and a more delicate flavor than cassia. It also contains a chemical compound called eugenol, the same one that gives cloves their distinctive aroma, which makes it more fragrant.