Happiness is…

Spices and teas

…a box full of spices and teas from my favorite local spice merchant. One great thing about living in the Algarve is how many of these bags are produced from locally grown crops, including two of my favorite “too late at night to have any caffeine” teas, Boa Noite and chamomile. The Boa Noite tea is an infusion of leaves and flowers from a dozen species, both native and cultivated. Combined with a touch of honey, it’s simply wonderful.


While placing my order, I discovered that my merchant carries two types of cinnamon: Cassia (Cinnamomum cassia or aromaticum), which is the kind I’ve used all my life, and Ceylon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum or verum), which I’ve never tried before. A bit of research turned up the fact that the Ceylon variety is the most commonly used in Europe, while Cassia is the most commonly used in North America. As it turns out, many recipes calling for cinnamon were originally meant for Ceylon, not Cassia. And there is a marked difference in the scent and taste: Ceylon is sweeter and far more subtle, adding a richness to drinks and desserts that Cassia can’t manage.

Last night I tested the Ceylon in my hot cocoa, and wow, what a difference. Instead of shouting “Cinnamon!” over the taste of the cocoa, the spice simply immerses itself into the drink and brings all the cocoa flavors to a higher level. “Rich” is a good way to describe it. I’m hooked.


About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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7 Responses to Happiness is…

  1. Linda Briganti says:

    I’ve seen both cinnamons in the rough but never had a chance to compare. Glad to hear your reaction. I count this as a “learn something new everyday” opportunity. Also, what a fascinating box.

    • oregon expat says:

      I’ve always loved the visuals of a bunch of spices and teas — whenever our spice merchant comes to a local festival and sets up, I spend half an hour just filling my eyeballs and fingering all the packages. (Good thing I’m also a customer.)

      • Ana_ñ says:

        I, too, love the visuals of spices and teas, especially in bulk. Spices and herb stalls are a treat for the eyes, with so many colors and textures. Also, sometimes the mix of smells is so strong that I feel a bit dizzy. Fascinating.

  2. Power Wench says:

    Ceylon is also very nice in fruit desserts of all kinds. However, for American-style sticky cinnamon buns, It’s gotta be Cassia, the stronger the better!

    • oregon expat says:

      Right on about the Cassia in cinnamon buns! Isn’t the cinnamon their raison d’être in the first place?

      The Ceylon is apparently used in many Mexican recipes as well, so the next time I make my special enchilada sauce with cocoa powder, I’m going to add some and see what happens.

  3. James Haney says:


    Even a Coffee fanatic like me can appreciate this.

  4. xenatuba says:

    I want to try some of that Ceylon cinnamon. Sounds interesting.

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