The AllSpice ‘Cinnamon Challenge:’ Taste the Differences

cinnamon_sticksCinnamon, the inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree (right), is one of the few spices that you can eat whole.

Cinnamon is native to southeast Asia, and its more than fifty species are grouped into a handful of types that are largely unknown to even the most discerning cooks in America: strong-tasting Vietnam or Saigon cinnamon, Indonesian or Korintje cassia cinnamon [tastes most like what Americans are used to], and delicately flavored Sri Lanka “true” cinnamon.

And so, dear readers, we ask of you: will you take the AllSpice Cinnamon Challenge? No, we don’t want you to wolf down a tablespoon of ground cinnamon without any water (that’s dangerous and gross); we want you to try our different varieties of cinnamon, and see if you can taste the differences among them.

Here are the features that distinguish the different types of cinnamon:

AllSpice_Korintje_cinnamonKorintje (Cassia) Cinnamon: Indonesian Korintje cinnamon ($4.35 for a 1/2 Cup jar) comes from cassia, a cinnamon with a thicker bark and a stronger flavor than “true” [Sri Lankan or Ceylon] cinnamon. Indonesian Korintje cinnamon is smooth, but has a surprising edge — this is the familiar cinnamon taste that most of us here in the US grew up with. This cinnamon holds the middle ground between our oil-rich, strongly-flavored Saigon cinnamon and our delicately-flavored Sri Lankan cinnamon. Indonesian Korintje cinnamon is a fantastic flavor for your fancy coffee beverages, for fruit dishes, and rice puddings — really it’s a wonderful, rich cinnamon suited for every recipe and use.

Sri Lankan (Ceylon) “True” Cinnamon: Sri Lankan or “True” cinnamon ($6.00 for a 1/2 Cup jar) is native to the island of Sri Lanka, formerly called Ceylon, just south of the Indian subcontinent. In fact, this cinnamon is sometimes referred to as Ceylon cinnamon, and is prized for its delicate flavor. Sri Lanka cinnamon has a complex, subtle flavor not found in the more common cassias. Its light, delicate flavor makes it the preferred cinnamon in European and Mexican cuisine, as it is not as spicy or sharp as cassia cinnamon. A staple in any pastry chef’s pantry.

AllSpice_Saigon_cinnamonSaigon Cinnamon: Saigon, or Vietnamese, cinnamon ($5.45 for a 1/2 Cup jar) is closely related to cassia cinnamon, and has the highest essential oil content of all our cinnamon varieties. Saigon cinnamon’s intense spicy-sweet flavor and aroma are prized for use in baking, curries, and candies. With a thick bark that is deep brown, the resulting powdered cinnamon is wonderfully rich in flavor. Spicy yet sweet, perfect for any recipe. An ultra-premium cinnamon!

Cinnamon has been a prized culinary and medicinal spice for over 4000 years. Cinnamon was imported to Egypt as early as 2000 bce, and the Hebrew Bible makes mention of Moses using sweet cinnamon in his “holy anointing oil.” Ancient Greeks made precious gift offerings of cinnamon to Apollo; Ancient Egyptians used the spice as a flavor for drinks and for embalming.

Arab spice traders kept the location of cinnamon’s source a secret until the 16th Century, and sold the staple ingredient to Venetian traders [who held the European spice monopoly] from Alexandria. Europeans in the Middle Ages used cinnamon to “bridge the flavors” in much of their cooking, in single-cauldron casseroles of meat and fruit and vegetables. This is thought to be the genesis of mince pies of today.

AllSpice_Sri_Lanka_CinnamonCinnamon has been a prized culinary and medicinal spice for over 4000 years. Cinnamon was imported to Egypt as early as 2000 bce, and the Hebrew Bible makes mention of Moses using sweet cinnamon in his “holy anointing oil.” Ancient Greeks made precious gift offerings of cinnamon to Apollo; Ancient Egyptians used the spice as a flavor for drinks and for embalming.

Arab spice traders kept the location of cinnamon’s source a secret until the 16th Century, and sold the staple ingredient to Venetian traders [who held the European spice monopoly] from Alexandria. Europeans in the Middle Ages used cinnamon to “bridge the flavors” in much of their cooking, in single-cauldron casseroles of meat and fruit and vegetables. This is thought to be the genesis of mince pies of today.

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