Different Types of Cinnamon
The different types of cinnamon are Saigon cinnamon (Cinnamomum loureiroi), Chinese cassia (Cinnamomum cassia), Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) and Indonesian cinnamon (Cinnamomum burmannii).
Cinnamon is a spice widely used as a condiment for desserts and for spicy preparations. It is obtained from the bark of trees of the genus Cinnamomum. To be useful in a culinary context, the bark is dried and rolled into a stick. It these these cinnamon sticks which are used in cooking, but not all of us may be aware there are different types. While they have certain similarities in terms of aroma and flavor, there are also key differences between cinnamon types. Although there are around 250 species of tree found in the genus Cinnamomum, only 4 are used for culinary purposes. thedailyECO discovers the names and varieties of the different types of cinnamon used in cooking with photos for comparison.
Saigon cinnamon (Cinnamomum loureiroi)
Also known as Vietnamese cinnamon, Saigon cinnamon is usually the most expensive type of cinnamon used in cooking. It has the second highest amount of coumarin, an aromatic and medicinal compound which affects flavor. It also has a high percentage of cinnamaldehyde in the essential oil, which is what makes it so expensive. It is this compound is what gives the characteristic cinnamon aroma in all varieties, but this species has a lot.
Due to its strong aroma, it is mainly used to flavor foods. Extractions from this cinnamon are used for various medicinal purposes. One of its most important properties is its anticoagulant effects. It is used to create the anticoagulant medicine known as warfarin which is often sold under the brand name Coumadin which reflects its relation to the different types of cinnamon.
The photo below shows the coiled ends common in Saigon cinnamon.
Chinese cassia (Cinnamomum cassia)
Also known as Chinese cinnamon, Chinese cassia is the most cultivated and consumed type of cinnamon tree. It is native to southern China, developing in tropical and subtropical climates. In addition to being used as a condiment, it also has medicinal properties similar to those already mentioned in other species. This is considered low quality cinnamon and is very cheap.
Almost all cinnamons on the market are of this species. The bark is thick, dark reddish brown and rough in texture, as shown in the photo below. The aroma is strong because it contains 95% cinnamaldehyde. It also contains coumarin. We have not mentioned the toxicity of coumarin which can seriously harm the liver and kidneys. For this reason, no type of cinnamon should be consumed in excess.
Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum)
This is the cinnamon known as true cinnamon and it is the second most commercialized variety. Some consider that this is the only one that can really be called cinnamon, although strictly speaking all those of the genus Cinnamomum are types of cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka and is used for medicinal, food and also cosmetic purposes. It is also used in poultry farming for its antimicrobial action that fights pathogens naturally.
It contains different essential oils, but the compound that stands out is eugenol which makes up 80% of the volatile compounds of this plant. This species has 0.004% coumarin, an undetectable and practically non-existent amount. This means it is not toxic and otherwise safe to consume. It has a mild flavor because it contains only 50% cinnamaldehyde. The bark is tan-brown in color, made up of light layers, which gives a great texture to food preparations. It is perhaps the rarest and most expensive type of cinnamon.
Discover other types of tree which can be used in cooking with our article on the different types of cherry trees.
Indonesian cinnamon (Cinnamomum burmannii)
Also known as korintje, Indonesian cinnamon is cultivated in Indonesia and Malaysia. It is mainly used as a medicinal plant for antidiabetic and antioxidant purposes in traditional medicine. Its ability to increase the body's energy levels, aid digestion and promote relaxation and a feeling of mental well-being has also been studied. It is also used as a flavoring for chewing gum, candy, desserts, pastries, beverages, liquors and other foodstuffs. It does not contain eugenol, but is high in cinnamaldehyde and coumarin. The bark is characterized because it is made up of several layers, feeling scaly to the touch, something you might be able to distinguish in the photo.
How to tell the difference between different types of cinnamon
Now that we know what are the different types of cinnamon, you may want to know how to tell them apart. You can do it using the following criteria:
- Chinese cassia (Cinnamomum cassia): differs from Ceylon cinnamon because the cassia bark is thick and textured. It is dark reddish in color and has a more intense aroma. The stick is twisted at both ends when dry.
- Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum): the bark and powder are browner in color than C. cassia and the bark is lighter in texture due to the multiple layers that compose it, making the powder more airy and light. The flavor and smell are milder than that of C. cassia. The stick is twisted into a single spiral.
- Saigon cinnamon (Cinnamomum loureiroi): is closely related to Cassia cinnamon. This means they are sometimes listed as the same product, but they are from different cinnamon trees. The Saigon is dark brown in color, with a sweet, spicy and strong flavor. It is also distinguished by the stick which is coiled at both ends.
- Indonesian cinnamon (Cinnamomum burmannii): it is a reddish type of cinnamon with a spicier flavor. The smell and flavor are also strong, but it is distinguished from Cassia cinnamon because it is darker.
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- Ju, J., Oliveira, MS d., Qiao, Y. (2023). Cinnamon. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing AG.
- Leech, J. (2023) Ceylon vs. Cassia—Not All Cinnamon Is Created Equal. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ceylon-vs-cassia-cinnamon
- Sharifi-Rad, et al. (2021). Cinnamomum species: bridging phytochemistry knowledge, pharmacological properties and toxicological safety for health benefits. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 12, 600139.