There are a multitude of flavors that the mind recalls when you hear Cinnamon. The sweet and comforting aroma of baking mixed with apples, breads, sugars, and baking. There are the pungent and strong fragrances from cinnamon hot candy, liquors, infusions with chiles, and spicy hot dishes. Both are real, and although both come from the same plant family - they are truly different in flavor, appearance, and useage.
The mother of all cinnamon must be the cinnamomum verum - 'true cinnamon' or Ceylon Cinnamon. From a tree whose inner bark separates into paper-thin layers and provides a punch of heat along with the prized flavor of cinnamon. This variety, native to Ceylon, was sought and desired most among spices for thousands of years. A relatively rare spice, it was used sparingly except in the most ostentatious of circumstances. The ancient kings of history are known to burn cinnamon in funeral pyres, and the routes bringing cinnamon to Egypt and Europe was a guarded secret. Tall tales were invented to protect the location of the cinnamon. IT was said that huge birds built their nests on tall cliffs from wood they brought from beyond. In truth, Ceylon was connected to India by a slender land-bridge until the early 1300's when it was destroyed by a storm. To this day, the strand is just below the surface of the ocean. Ceylon was so full of cinnamon, that sailors heading to harvest the spice would be able to smell the aroma of cinnamon up to 8 leagues out to sea.
Far and away, the more commonly used cinnamon variety in the world today is
Cassia, Cinnamomum cassia, or Saigon Cinnamon. Cassia is found in hard, solid "quills" of various lengths. When ground into a fine powder, it has a wonderfully sweeter cinnamon flavor. It is favored in baking pies, cookies, cakes, and treats; libations such as mulled cider, wine, coffee, and sprinkled a myriad of items at the table.