What is Cassia?
Cassia is an aromatic bark, similar to cinnamon, but differing in strength and quality. Its bark is darker, thicker and coarser, and the corky outer bark is often left on. The outer surface is rough and grayish brown, the inside bark is smoother and reddish-brown. It is less costly than cinnamon and is often sold ground as cinnamon. When buying as sticks, cinnamon rolls into a single quill while cassia is rolled from both sides toward the centre so that they end up resembling scrolls. Cassia buds resemble cloves. They are the dried unripe fruits about 14 mm (1/2 in) long and half as wide. It is native to Burma and grown in China, Indo-China, the East and West Indies and Central America. It is called kwei in the earliest Chinese herbal by Shen-nung (2700 B.C.). It reached Europe in classical times with Arabian and Phoenician traders and the buds were known in Europe in the Middle Ages.
There are many varieties of cassia, including: Chinese cassia (Cinnamomum cassia) or cassia, is from Burma and South China, coming in quills or rolled. This variety is also the source of cassia buds. Indian cassia (Cinnamomum tamala) is native to India where its leaves are also used as an herb (tejpat). Indonesian cassia (Cinnamomum burmanni) or Padang cassia has a smoother bark and double quills. This is usually the cassia that is imported to North America. Saigon cassia (Cinnamomum loureirii) is native to Indonesia and is also grown in Japan and Korea. Oliver’s Bark (Cinnamomum oliveri) is an Australian substitute of cassia and cinnamon. Mossoia Bark (Cinnamomum) is an inferior substitute for cassia and cinnamon from Papua New Guinea.
Bouquet: The buds have a slight aroma. the bark is sweet-spicy like cinnamon, but more pungent.
Flavour: The bark and the buds have similar flavours: warm, sweet and pungent.
Hotness Scale: 3
Preparation and Storage
The pieces are hard and tough, so they are very difficult to grind. They can be used whole in stews and casseroles. the bark will flatten during cooking. The buds are also used whole. If required in powdered form, it is best to buy it ready ground. Store in airtight containers.
Cooking with Cassia
Where cinnamon and cassia are differentiated, cinnamon is used for sweet dishes, or ones requiring a subtle flavour, and cassia for strong, spicy, main dishes. In many countries the two spices are used interchangeably and in North America the more robust cassia is usually used, though generally sold as cinnamon. It is often used in stewed fruits, especially apples and with mixed spices for pudding spice, pastry spice and mulling spices. In main dishes it is used in curries, pilaus and spicy meat dishes. The whole buds are also good for flavouring these dishes. Dried cassia leaves are the Indian herb tejpat, sometimes erroneously called ‘bay leaves’. Cassia is an ingredient in Chinese five-spice.
Health Benefits of Cassia
The properties of cassia and its oil are similar to those of cinnamon and comprised largely of cinnamaldehyde. It is a tonic, carminative and stimulant. It is used to treat nausea and flatulence. It is also used alone or in combination to treat diarrhea.
Plant Description and Cultivation
An evergreen tree growing to 7 m with a white aromatic bark and angular branches. The leaves are oblong-lancelate about 18 cm (7 in) long. Small yellow flowers hang from long stocks, and bloom in early summer. It grows in hot, wet, tropical climates both wild and commercially. The stems are cut down when the bark is mature. The bark is removed in short lengths and dried, with some varieties rolling into quills.
Bastard Cinnamon, Canel, Chinese Cinnamon,
French: canéfice, casse
German: Kaneel, Kassia, Kassiarinde
Indian: dal chini, dhall cheene (cinnamon), nagkesar, nakeser (buds), tejpat (leaves)