Ceylon versus Saigon. What’s the difference?
Often around baking season, we get a lot of folks looking for good quality cinnamon. We often get asked which on is better, stronger, tastier, healthier?
First, what is cinnamon? Cinnamon in its whole form is the inner bark of a tree, Cinnamomum, an evergreen aromatic tree. The bark is stripped from the trees and dried in rolls, or cinnamon sticks. Whole cinnamon can be purchased in sticks or bark, which is just broken up sticks. Ground cinnamon is just that, ground up cinnamon bark. Essential oils are also made by pounding the bark, macerating it with sea water, and distilling it.
At Township27 we carry two different types, Saigon and Ceylon. Ceylon comes originally from Sri Lanka and is thought to be the true cinnamon. Other types, which are also referred to as cinnamon, but are actually cassia, are Indonesian, Chinese, Saigon, and Malabar. Indonesia and China produce 70% of the world's supply of cinnamon.
Other than origin, what else distinguishes the different types of cinnamon?
Illuminate Labs published an article this year on the main differences between Ceylon and Saigon cinnamon with respect to health benefits as well as taste. The studies they found listed the potential health benefits of Ceylon in diabetes management, cholesterol management, and anti-inflammatory effects due to the presence of polyphenols. The benefits have been listed based on published medical research.
Comparatively, Saigon has had little research done on health benefits. The article notes that it does not discount the potential benefits, more noting that Ceylon is more abundant, and thus more research has been done on it.
In terms of flavor, the site Spiceography compares the two in terms of flavor and aroma. Saigon has a more intense aroma and potential bitter taste if overused. Ceylon is milder, or more subtle. The site notes that Ceylon is better used in dishes that are simpler, where other spices will not mask its mild flavor. For baking or using it with chocolate, Ceylon is preferable. When cooking, and more specifically cooking dishes from Southeast Asia, Saigon stands up better to other pungent spices in those types of dishes. Note both can be used, although there may be slight differences in the outcome of the recipe if you are expecting very traditional flavors.
Ultimately it comes down to preference and what you enjoy more. You can’t go wrong with either, and as with many things, adjust to taste for your own love of good food!