…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.