cinnamon – a spice for sweet and spicy dishes

What is cinnamon? (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)




Cinnamon is the bark of the cinnamon tree, a plant from the family of the Lauraceae. It originally comes from Sri Lanka which is the country that produces the most, that’s why it is also called Ceylon cinnamon. This cinnamon is also considered to be the best. It is also cultivated in other countries such as Indonesia and Costa Rica.


How can you use it?

In Europe cinnamon is mainly used for desserts, cakes, vin brûlé, gingerbread and various drinks, while in the Arabic cuisine it is used for salty dishes, such as tajines and rice, as well. It is also used in many spice blends (e.g. Ras el Hanouth) and can be found in potpourris. Whole cinnamon sticks preserve the aroma for a long time, so it should only be ground when needed or it can be cooked whole, like in cooked apples. Ground cinnamon should always be kept in jars and its aroma is sweet, but also intense, and as it is ground it becomes spicy, even slightly hot.


How is it processed?

The outer bark is removed (approx. 1 mm) and the second layer is used as a spice (approx. 5-7 mm). The pieces of bark are rolled into each other by hand to obtain the cinnamon sticks known to us.

In Costa Rica the cinnamon is not rolled but dried as 10 cm long pieces.

Cinnamon - Sri Lanka

cinnamon - Costa Rica
cinnamon – Costa Rica
cinnamon - Sri Lanka
cinnamon – Sri Lanka
Cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia)

Like its relative, cinnamon, cassia is the dry bark of a laurel tree, but it comes from Burma, southern China or Vietnam.  It has a less delicate taste, is more intense and sweeter than Ceylon cinnamon. In the United States, where mainly the cassia cinnamon is known, it is used in desserts, while in Asia it is more commonly used in savory dishes. There are different varieties of cassia, the most intense one comes from Vietnam and is very suitable for biscuits, cakes, cooked apples, etc.. Cassia is part of the spice mixture “Chinese five spice”. Cassia has a very hard rind and is difficult to grind at home, which is why it is usually sold in powder form.

What are cinnamon buds?

Cinnamon buds are the unopened flowers of the cinnamon tree. They are less known, but you can use them as a spice. They are slightly spicier than the cinnamon sticks. You can use them whole, e.g. cooked with apple pieces or ground in a pepper mill over desserts or salty dishes. If you chew them they give you a fresh breath.


Here is a very simple recipe for cinnamon tea:


– 1 lt water

– 20 cm Ceylon cinnamon stick



Break the cinnamon stick into pieces of about 2cm and simmer with the water for 15 minutes, then sieve.


The tea tastes deliciously sweet although it is not sweetened. A dream for cold winter days!

Next week there will be recipes for spiced Christmas cookies!

Spiced Christmas Cookies




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.