From warming winter puddings and mulled wine to Moroccan tagines and Asian stocks, cinnamon is an essential inclusion on your spice shelf.


There are two main varieties of cinnamon: Sri Lankan cinnamon  and cassia cinnamon from Vietnam and Indonesia. Sri Lankan cinnamon is made by peeling the paper-thin underneath layer of bark, and rolling it into quills. Cassia bark is stripped from the whole tree and comes in many shapes and sizes, including small scrolls. Cassia is also called Baker’s, Batavia, Dutch or Saigon cinnamon.

What’s the appeal?

Both have a comforting aromatic fragrance and a sweet mellifluous taste that compliments sweet and savoury dishes alike. However, cinnamon is sweet and mild and has a delicate flavour, while cassia is strong, and a little sharp with a warm background note.

Flavour matches:

Cinnamon and cassia are used in cakes, sweet pastries and biscuits, stewed fruits, curries, beverages such as chai tea and mulled wine, Moroccan tagines, Middle Eastern meat and legume dishes, Chinese master stocks, and preserved lemons and pickles. Pair with allspice, amchur, cardamom, chilli, coriander seed, cumin, fennel, ginger, kokam, liquorice, nutmeg, star anise, tamarind and turmeric.

Tasty applications:

  • Ground cinnamon and cassia are best when the spice needs to be mixed with other ingredients, such as in rubs and baked goods.
  •  Whole quills or bark are added during cooking to infuse the flavour without leaving any muddy looking residue. Use in mulled wine, spiced rice, infusing, as in panna cotta, and when pickling vegetables.


All spices are best stored in a cool, dark place away from extremes of heat, light and humidity. Re-sealable zip-seal bags are good, as most of the air can be expelled before closing. Jars and canisters that are not full are stored with a lot of head-space of air. This allows the spice to oxidise and lose its flavour more rapidly. Ground spice will keep the best flavour for 12 to 18 months and whole spices two to three years. Don’t store in the freezer as condensation forms when taken out, and this introduces moisture.

Look out for:

Cassia is often just labelled as ‘cinnamon’ with no indication that it is cassia. Understand the difference to get the best from each. Ground cinnamon quills are sometimes adulterated with the lower cost outer bark of the cinnamon tree. If your ground cinnamon is dark in colour and seems a bit gritty, it’s more than likely adulterated.

cinnamon.JPGCinnamon quills have paper-thin layers of concentric curls and are light brown to pale tan. 

cassia.JPGCassia has thicker curls and is reddish brown in colour. 

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