Cassia, dalchini, and true cinnamon.
Up here in Finland we usually only get cassia (Cinnamomum cassia (= Cinnamomum aromaticum)), and that's it.A couple weeks ago, back when I went on a stroll through a few of the local ethnofood stores, I picked up some dalchini. It had a label of Cinnamomum verum (which is true cinnamon).
Pic: Cassia and dalchini.
The one to the right is dalchini. It has a MUCH more acrid scent than the cassia, which is contrary to all I've heard about true cinnamon. So I doubted that label ... the dalchini taste is that of a sweet and very hot cinnamon.
Different cinnamons are interesting, so when I recently bought some dried herb from a UK herb house, I also asked for samples of their cinnamon and cassia - they had both in their catalogue.
The herbs arrived yesterday (... last week, by the time you read this).
Their organic cassia is the same as our organic cassia. A cinnamon-like scent, and a sweet, cinnamonlike and very hot taste, not all that different from the dalchini. (Our usual (not organically grown) cassia isn't all that sweet, dunno why.) (So the dalchini is a cassia, more likely than not.)
True cinnamon on the other hand has a wonderfully sweet scent. Mmmmm. The taste is of sweet cinnamon, without any hotness.
Pic: Dalchini, 2 cassias, and cinnamon.
You can see one obvious difference between the cassias and the cinnamon: true cinnamon quills are composed of a multitude of paper-thin bark layers, where cassia is in a single, perhaps ½ mm thick layer.
That true cinnamon scent, really, it's heavenly.
You ask, where'd you get the samples from? It's the Organic Herb Trading Co., in the UK.
I also have an enormous bit of TCM cinnamon bark. Don't ask me what kind it is, I have no idea. It's 2 mm thick, 30+ cm long, about 4 cm wide and about 2 cm high. It's rolled in on itself, but not all that tightly. It has a sweet cinnamon taste with a bit of hotness, and looks rather a lot like the dalchini.
Now, which to use in my mulled wine, true cinnamon or cassia/dalchini? Decisions, decisions...
Did you know that cinnamon actually helps insulin shoo in excess sugar, in diabetes and hyperinsulinemia? That means it's one of the very few plants that are actually helping the cause, not just masking symptoms. (Update 16Feb06: that's actually cassia cinnamon, not true cinnamon.)
Of course, if you really want to help the cause in adult-onset diabetes and Syndrome X, you simply leave out simple carbs from your diet ... that's potatoes, rice, pasta, bread. It's easy after the first few weeks.