Cinnamon is obtained by stripping the inner bark from the shoots of 2–3‐year‐old stems of the tree. The inner bark is dried and curls in a characteristic way that we associate with cinnamon sticks. The cinnamon trees are cut or pruned to allow for the growth of new shoots for the next crop of bark. The work is difficult and requires skilled peelers. Sri Lankan or true cinnamon is paper‐thin and forms into a single curl (or quill), while cassia and burmannii cinnamons are thick and curl into a double curl/quill.
Moreover, only true cinnamon will have many thin layers rolled into its single quill. Once ground into powder (in the absence of chemical analysis), it is nearly impossible to distinguish between true and cassia cinnamon. Cinnamon powders typically come from low‐grade and chipped bark; the leaves and low‐grade bark can also be distilled or solvent extracted to harvest cinnamon oil. Is there a difference in taste between the different types of cinnamon?
Sri Lankan cinnamon, which was used in many early European desserts and Mexican recipes, is slightly sweeter and has a mild flavor. Cassia and burmannii cinnamons have a stronger, almost peppery flavor, are the “cinnamon” that you buy in the grocery store, and are the cinnamon spice aromas and flavors that you associate with gum and apple pie. In other countries, cassia cinnamon is distinguished from others by labeling the spice as cassia, not cinnamon.