Cassia (Cinnamomum cassia)
Cassia is the dried bark of East Asian laurel trees and in some countries is used interchangeably with cinnamon.
Cassia is sweet with a strong flavour and astringent note.
Cassia has a similar warm, sweet, woody aroma to cinnamon however as it has a higher content of volatile oil, it is more intense than cinnamon.
Cassia is used most commonly in the form of bark (whole, quills or ground) however is also used for its buds and leaves, called tejpat leaves. Cassia bark is a common ingredient in Chinese cuisine as it is an ingredient in Chinese five spice powder and is used to flavour braised meats and sauces. Ground cassia and tejpat leaves are common ingredients in Indian curries and in Russia and Germany cassia is used to flavour chocolate. Cassia buds are used to make pickles and in fruit salad. Cassia is more suited to savoury dishes while cinnamon is more suited to sweet dishes. Cassia loves meat, chicken, lentils and root vegetables and marries with cardamom, cloves, coriander seed, cumin, fennel, ginger, nutmeg, Sichuan pepper, star anise and turmeric.
Cassia comes from small, evergreen laurel trees which are grown in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Central America and the West Indies. The trees grow to 3 metres and are cut down when the bark is ready to harvest. The bark is harvested in the rainy season when it strips off easily. As the bark dies, it curls to make reddish-brown quills.
Cassia trees are native to Assam and northern Burma. It has been used in China as early as 3000 BC and was introduced into Europe via spice routes from the East. It was mentioned in the Bible and used by Egyptian pharaohs.
Cassia is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs in traditional Chinese medicine. It is said to help cure flatulence and diarrhoea.
Facts about Cassia
The finest cassia comes from Vietnam. Indonesian or Korintje cassia has a deep flavour and spicy flavour however lacks the depth of Vietnamese or Chinese cassia.
In the US cassia is sold as cinnamon or cassia-cinnamon, as its more pronounced aroma and flavour is referred to true cinnamon.
Commonly Asked Questions
Can I replace cassia with cinnamon?
As they have very similar flavour profiles, cinnamon can replace cassia. Cassia has a stronger flavour, so use it in smaller quantities.