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Cassia (Cinnamomum cassia (L.) Presl)


botanicalCinnamomum aromaticum Nees
Darseen, Kerfee
官桂 [gùn gwai], 桂心 [gwai sàm], 牡桂 [máuh gwai], 肉桂 [yuhk gwai], 玉桂 [yúk gwai], 紫桂 [jih gwai]
Gun gwai, Gwai sam, Mauh gwai, Yuhk gwai, Yuk gwai, Jih gwai
官桂 [guān guì], 桂心 [guì xīn], 牡桂 [mǔ guì], 肉桂 [ròu guì], 玉桂 [yù guì], 紫桂 [zǐ guì], 桂皮 [guì pí], [guì]
Guan gui, Gui xin, Kuei tsin, Mu gui, Rou gui pi, Rougui, Yu gui, Zi gui, Gui pi, Gui
CroatianKineski cimet
CzechSkořice čínská
DanishKinesisk Kanel
DutchKassie, Bastaardkaneel, Valse kaneel
EnglishChinese cassia, Bastard cinnamon, Chinese cinnamon
EsperantoĈina cinamomo, Aroma cinamomo
EstonianHiina kaneelipuu, Kassia
FinnishTalouskaneli, Kassia, Kassiakaneli
FrenchCasse, Canéfice, Cannelle de Chine
GermanChinesischer Zimt, Kassie
Greek (Old)Κασία, Κασσία
Kasia, Kassia
Kasia, Kassia, Qasia, Qassia
Hindiजंगली दालचीनी
Jangli dalchini
HungarianKasszia, Fahéjkasszia, Kínai fahéj
IndonesianKayu manis cina
ItalianCassia, Cannella della Cina
Japanese桂皮, 唐肉桂
けいひ, とうにっけい
ケイシ, カシア, シナモンカッシア, トウニッケイ, ケイヒ
Keishi, Keihi, Kashia, Kasia, Tō-nikkei, To-nikkei, Shinamon-kassia
Korean캐시어, 카시아
Kaeseo, Kaeso, Kasia
Laoຈວງດົງ, ຈວງຫອມ, ຂ່າຕົ້ນ, ແຄຫອມ, ແຄນາງ, ຊ້າຈວງ, ໄຊ່ຈວງ
Chuang dong, Chuang hom, Khae hom, Kha ton, Sa Chuang, Sai Chuang
LithuanianKininis cinamonas
PolishKasja, Cynamon chiński; Cynamonowiec chiński, Cynamonowiec wonny (tree)
PortugueseCássia-aromática, Canela-da-china
RomanianScorțișoară CassiaScorţişoară Cassia, Scorțișoară chinezeascăScorţişoară chinezească
RussianКоричное дерево, Кассия, Кассия коричная
Korichnoje derevo, Kassia, Kassia korichnaya
SerbianЦимет-каија, Цимет кинески
Cimet-kasija, Cimet kineski
SlovakŠkorica cassia, Škorica čínská, Škoricovník čínsky
SpanishCasia, Canela de la China
Thaiอบเชยจีน, เทพธาโร
Ob choey chin, Thephtharo
TurkishÇin tarçını
VietnameseQuế dơn, Quế quảng, Quế thanh
Que don, Que quang, Que thanh
Cinnamomum cassia: Cassia
Cassia bark
Used plant part

Stem bark. For cassia buds, see Ceylon cinna­mon.

Plant family

Lauraceae (laurel family).

Sensory quality

Strongly aromatic, sweet, warm, but slightly bitter and mucilagi­nous. Compared to Ceylon cinnamon, cassia tastes slightly bitter and astringent, and it lacks the liveliness of cinnamon. On bitter spices, see also zedoary.

Main constituents

Similarly to Ceylon cinnamon, cassia contains max. 4% essential oil, 75 to 90% of which are composed by cinnamic aldehyde. There are only traces of eugenol is, but significant amounts (7%) of coumarin; therefore, analysis of eugenol and coumarin discriminates between Ceylon and Chinese cinnamon. Trace components of cassia oil are benzoic acid, cinnamic acid, salicylic acid and the corresponding esters and aldehydes. Cassia bark contains significantly more slime (11%) than Ceylon cinnamon bark.

The leaf oil (0.3 to 0.8%) has a similar composition to the bark oil.

In fall 2006, Coumarin has become much-discussed in Germany, as it was revealed that some cassia-flavoured cookies exceed the legal limit of coumarin and might prove dangerous to health. The limit is very low in German law, 2 ppm irrespective of the type of food, which would equal about half a gram of cassia per kilogram if a maximum coumarin content is assumed. Clearly, cassia-flavoured cookies easily lie above this threshold.

In contrast, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment published an alternative limit of 0.1 mg Coumarin per kg body mass and day, which is considered harmless as average intake. According to this scale, a person of 50 kg could afford to eat 5 mg coumarin or at least one gram of cassia per day. Other possible sources of coumarin, of course, have to enter the calculation separately (e. g., perfumes). See also tonka bean for more on the toxicity of coumarin.


Southern China, Burma, Laos, Vietnam. Commercial cultivation is restricted to China and Vietnam.


The name cassia indirectly derives from Greek kasia [κασία], which is probably a loan from Semitic traders (cf. Old Hebrew qetsiiah [קציעה]); its ultimate origin is not fully clear, but the name might well derive, as the spice itself, from China in a larger sense. It was suggested that cassia might be related to the name of the Khasi people, an Austroasiatic tribe in North-Eastern India (union state Meghalaya) and Bangladesh. Formerly, they inhabited a larger area in Assam, extending to Burma, and they might have been involved in ancient cassia trade. Another theory links the name to Sumerian gazi [𒃢, 𒃨] (Akkadian kasû), which denoted a spice variously translated as cassia, licorice oder mustard.

For the derivation of cinnamon, Zimt, cimet and similar forms, see Sri Lanka cinnamon; another group of names, exemplified by kaneel and cannelle, has an independent origin discussed under Indonesian cinnamon.

In Central Asia to North India, cinnamon spice was traditionally imported from China. Local languages do not distinguish between Chinese and other types of cinnamon, but employ the same name for all cinnamon types: Bengali darchini [দাড়চিনি], Hindi dal chini [दालचीनी], Punjabi dal chini [ਦਾਲ ਚਿਨੀ], Pashto dol chini [دال چينى] and Farsi darchin [دارچین] (thence Armenian darchin [դարչին]) all mean Chinese wood; see juniper for an explanation of the element dar which means wood. The cinnamon sold and used in today’s India and Central Asia may derive from either variety; furthermore, adulteration by less-quality North Indian Cinnamomum species is common, for example by the bark of the tree that yields Indian bay-leaves.

The name was transferred to a number of unrelated languages: Turkish tarçın, Turkmen dalçyn, Azerbaijani darçın, Kazakh darshin [даршин], Arabic ad-darsin [الدارسين] and Georgian darichini [დარიჩინი]. In these languages, the speakers are usually not aware of the literal meaning, as the element dar has no connection with wood (in Arabic, it happens to mean country). Also, the association with China is not felt, and often obscured by sound changes or orthography. For example, the Arabic name of China, as-sin [الصين] uses another sound and letter for the S, and in Turkish, the name of China has a different vowel (Çin) because of the vowel harmony imposed on the Persian loanword.

Selected Links

Indian Spices: Chinese ( Indian Spices: Forest ( The Epicentre: Cassia Chinese Herb Database: Cassia Twig Chinese Herb Database: Cassia Bark Medical Spice Exhibit: Cassia (via (via Zimtaldehyd Fragen und Antworten zu Cumarin in Zimt und anderen Lebensmitteln ( Transport Information Service: Cinnamon/Cassia Sorting Cinnamomum names ( The Mythic Chinese Unicorn zhi: The Cinnamon Route (via Recipe: Slow-Braised Pork Belly (Hong-shao rou [红烧肉]) ( Recipe: Red-braised Pork (Hong-shao rou [红烧肉]) ( Recipe: Red-braised Pork (Hong-shao rou [红烧肉]) ( Recipe: Mao-shi hong-shao-rou [毛氏红烧肉] (Chairman Mao’s Red Braised Pork) ( Recipe: Hongshao wanyu (Red-cooked carp) ( Recipe: Hong-Shao Ji-Chi [红烧鸡翅] (Red-cooked chicken wings) ( Rezept: Hongshao Jichi [红烧鸡翅] (Rotgeschmorte Hühnerflügel) ( Rezept: Baxianglu tipang [八香鹵蹄膀] (Schweinshaxe in Spezialwürzbrühe) ( Cookbook Review and Recipe: Hongshao Niurou [红烧牛肉] (Red-cooked beef) ( Rezept bei Rotgeschmorter Schweinebauch (Hong-shao rou [红烧肉])

Cinnamomum cassia: Cassia flower
Cassia flower

Cassia was the first cinnamon species that has made its way to Europe, at least since Alexander the Great. Before this time, cassia was trans­ported as far as to Egypt, where it was part of mummification mixtures for the pharaohs, and to Israel, since cassia is mentioned several times in the Bible (see pomegranate for details).

Today, cassia is the preferred cinnamon species from peninsular South East Asia to Central Asia. In Western countries, Ceylon cinnamon is usually preferred for its purer and less harsh taste. Although cassia seems to be rather common in the US, it is hardly available in Europe unless in Chinese markets. Cassia can be substituted by cinnamon without loss of authenticity.

In Chinese cookery, cassia is an essential ingredient and used in the famous five spice powder (see star anise) and in spice mixtures of dried spices for slow-simmered hotpots (see black cardamom). Together with other spices, cassia is important for several Chinese cooking techniques that use large amounts of aromatic liquid as a cooking medium. The two best-known techniques of that kind are red cooking or red braising (hongshao [红烧]) and master sauce cooking (lushui zhi [鹵水汁]).

Cinnamomum cassia: Red-braised pork 红烧肉
Red-cooked pork belly (hongshao rou [红烧肉])

Red braising (hongshao [红烧]) means slow cooking in a mixture of dark soy sauce and spices. The cooking liquid is made from soy sauce (jiang you [酱油]), soy pastes (often sweet bean paste hoisin [Cantonese 海鮮醬, Mandarin 海鲜酱]), sugar and rice wine (liao jiu [料酒]), which are flavoured with fresh ginger, onion, garlic and dried spices up to the imagination of the cook. Most typical are cassia and star anise followed by black pepper, Sichuan pepper and even licorice. That liquid is used to cook large chunks of meats and poultry, which may be quickly fried and browned before cooking to improve the flavour. Typical cooking times range from half an hour for poultry to several hours for beef. Pork belly can also be prepared this way; made properly, it is delicious even if excessively greasy (hong shao rou [红烧肉]). By this type of cooking, the foods acquire a deep reddish–brown hue.

Although red braising is particularly associated with Hunan and Shanghai cooking, it is practiced all over China, often with local variations. In Sichuan, for example, hot bean paste (doubanjiang [豆瓣酱]) and broth is often taken as the base of the cooking liquid, and dried chiles may be added. The finished meat is often additionally flavoured with sesame oil. This method is also referred as jiang shao [酱烧] braising with bean sauce; other related techniques are bai shao [白烧] white braising (using a pale cooking liquid untainted by soy sauce) and and cong shao [葱烧] onion braising.

Lu shui liao: Chinese Master Sauce Spices
Spice mixture for master sauce (鹵水料) made from orange peel, cassia, fennel, star anise, lesser galanga, Sichuan pepper and licorice.

Cooking in master sauce denotes a technique that uses a strongly salted and spiced broth (lu shui [鹵水], literally salt water) as cooking medium. The broth may contain small amounts of soy sauce, enough to taint the food brown. That spice broth is used to cook meat, bean cheese or vegetables; meat is usually marinated with ginger and scallions and often blanched to prevent the broth from becoming foamy and acquiring a raw taste.

Master sauces may have varying composition, but typical flavourings are rice wine, fresh ginger and basically all the spices employed for red braising: Cassia, star anise, orange peel, fennel, Sichuan pepper and licorice. Sichuan cooks will often use additional spices like black cardamom and lesser galangale. Mixtures of whole spices for master sauces are often sold as lu shui liao [鹵水料] grains for master sauce.

The master sauce is not served; it may be diluted with fresh broth, rice wine and soy sauce and re-used. To keep it from spoiling, it should be reused or at least brought to a short boil every day, which is indeed possible only in a restaurant; in Western households, it is much more convenient to keep it in the freezer till next usage. The more often the master sauce is used, the more aromatic and masterly it tastes.

Both of the cooking methods outlined in the previous paragraphs are simple, but very effective. One of the reasons why they works so well is the alcohol content: alcohol facilitates the blending of flavours. To prevent the volatile alcohol from evaporating, the cooking pot must be closed carefully and the temperature should be kept at a slow simmer.

For a comparison of different cinnamon species, see Indonesian cinnamon.

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