[size=75]From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia [/size]

Cassia (Cinnamomum aromaticum, synonym C. cassia) is an evergreen tree native to southern China and mainland Southeast Asia west to Myanmar. Like its close relative, Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum, also known as “true cinnamon” or “Ceylon cinnamon”), it is used primarily for its aromatic bark, which is used as a spice, often under the culinary name of “cinnamon”. The buds are also used as a spice, especially in India and in Ancient Rome.

The Cassia tree grows to 10-15 m tall, with greyish bark, and hard elongated leaves 10-15 cm long, that have a decidedly reddish colour when young.

Cassia is a close relative to the cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum, Cinnamomum zeylanicum, or “true cinnamon”), Saigon Cinnamon (Cinnamomum loureiroi, also known as “Vietnamese Cinnamon”), Camphor laurel (Cinnamomum camphora), Malabathrum (Cinnamomum tamala) and Cinnamomum burmannii trees. As with these species, the dried bark of cassia is used as a spice. Cassia’s flavour, however, is less delicate than that of true cinnamon; for this reason the less expensive cassia is sometimes called “bastard cinnamon”.[1]

Whole branches and small trees are harvested for cassia bark, unlike the small shoots used in the production of cinnamon; this gives cassia bark a much thicker and rougher texture than that of true cinnamon.

Most of the spice sold as cinnamon in the United States and Canada (where true cinnamon is still generally unknown) is actually cassia. In some cases, cassia is labeled “Chinese cinnamon” to distinguish it from the more expensive true cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), which is the preferred form of the spice used in Mexico and Europe [1]. “Indonesian cinnamon” can also refer to Cinnamomum burmannii, which is also commonly sold in the United States, labeled only as cinnamon.

Cassia is produced in both mainland and island Southeast Asia. Up to the 1960s Vietnam was the world’s most important producer of Saigon Cinnamon, a species so closely related to cassia that it was often marketed as cassia (or, in North America, “cinnamon”). Because of the disruption caused by the Vietnam War, however, production of cassia in the highlands of the Indonesian island of Sumatra was increased to meet demand, and Indonesia remains one of the main exporters of cassia today. Saigon Cinnamon, only having become available again in the United States since the early 21st century, has an intense flavour and aroma and a higher percentage of essential oils than Indonesian cassia. Tung Hing, a rarer form of cassia produced in China, is said to be sweeter and more peppery than Indonesian cassia.[2]

Cassia bark (both powdered and in whole, or “stick” form) is used as a flavouring agent, for candies, desserts, baked goods, and meat; it is specified in many curry recipes, where cinnamon is less suitable. Cassia is sometimes added to true cinnamon but is a much thicker, coarser product. Cassia is sold as pieces of bark (as pictured below) or as neat quills or sticks. Cassia sticks can be distinguished from true Cinnamon sticks in the following manner: Cinnamon sticks have many thin layers and can easily be made into powder using a coffee or spice grinder, whereas Cassia sticks are extremely hard, are usually made up of one thick layer and can break an electric spice or coffee grinder if one attempts to grind them without first breaking them into very small pieces.

Cassia buds, although rare, are also occasionally used as a spice. They resemble cloves in appearance and flavor.[3]photo

Some images of Cassia