The four main types of cinnamon; Ceylon (aka true or real), Cassia, Saigon (Indonesian), and Korintje Cinnamon, are identified by color, taste, aroma, and appearance. Cassia, Indonesian, and Korintje Cinnamon are classified under the Cassia Cinnamon category because they are very similar, with only slight differences in color, taste, shape, and Coumarin content.
Ceylon Cinnamon is soft and brittle with ultra-low Coumarin levels, and all of the other Cassia type cinnamons are hard and have high levels of coumarin, a substance known to cause liver damage,
Ceylon Cinnamon is primarily used throughout most of Europe due to the first spice European explorers (Portuguese, Dutch and British) who brought it back from their conquests of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) nearly 400 years ago. However, cheaper cassia has become more common and dominates the market.
The Ceylon Cinnamon tree grows to around 49 feet in its natural state and grows best in sandy soil. It has a thin bark due to being harvested early for commercial purposes. The flowers are white with oval-shaped fruit, which becomes bluish with white spots when ripe.
One of the biggest advantages of Ceylon Cinnamon (also known as Mexican Cinnamon) is its ultra-low Coumarin levels. Coumarin in high doses can cause liver failure, so for people who take cinnamon daily, Ceylon Cinnamon is the preferred choice.
Cassia Cinnamon is predominately used (70%) in North America. Indonesia is the leading supplier of Cassia Cinnamon because it is much cheaper than Ceylon Cinnamon, which tends to be expensive. After all, Ceylon Cinnamon is handcrafted and rolled in multiple thin layers. Cassia Cinnamon is from a hard bark tree, which is spicy, smells strong, and is sometimes bitter.
Having originated in Vietnam, this cinnamon has gained in popularity and makes a good impression in terms of sheer aroma and taste. It can be spicy and strong and sweet at the same time. It is a bit more expensive than Cassia Cinnamon but has one of the highest levels of coumarin.
Unfortunately, while parts of the Cassia Cinnamon family tend to do well, Chinese cinnamon tends to be more strong, less sweet, and slightly bitter than the others. This could be due to the soil conditions, as cinnamon quality can vary depending on soil conditions. Most Chinese cinnamon stays in China and is mainly used in Chinese medicines for coughs, phlegm, and other illnesses.