True Cinnamon

Ceylon cinnamon on the left, cassia cinnamon on the right

In the past I haven’t been a huge cinnamon fan but for some reason I’ve been eating a lot of it lately, enjoying stirring it into my tea, or piling it on baked apples or fruit. Curious as to how this might fit in with my very-conscious eating I did a little research and discovered that cinnamon is supposed to regulate blood sugar and have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, so is a perfectly good thing to be loading up on at the moment.

However I also saw that cassia cinnamon, the everyday store-bought type of cinnamon ubiquitous in the US, is high in something called coumarin which acts as a liver toxin in high doses (like a teaspoon a day, which I don’t think most people would hit, but apparently it’s enough of a toxin that cassia cinnamon has been banned in parts of Europe).  As it turns out there are actually two varieties of cinnamon. Well four really, but three of them are generally lumped together under the rubric of cassia cinnamon. The other type is called Ceylon cinnamon, or “true cinnamon”. Maybe this is generally common knowledge but I had no idea and was glad to find out.

Intrigued by this other, mysterious type of hard-to-find cinnamon, but not wanting a whole pound, I eventually ordered a small bag of organic Ceylon cinnamon grown in Sri Lanka. It’s lighter in color than regular cinnamon, more brown than red. The flavor is much more subtle: with the sting of classic cinnamon spiciness toned down you are better able to taste the intriguing underlying cinnamon notes. This true cinnamon is more woodsy and more fragrant. It’s possible you would need a larger amount in some recipes but it would bring an additional palate to the dish. The exotic scent has me imagining myself sitting on a balcony on the edge of a jungly island sipping tea a hundred years ago. And it’s delicious in chai.

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