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Where can i find REAL CINNAMON--It doesn't exist in the US-PLEASE READ

Where can i find real cinnamon in the LA area, preferably from Sri Lanka?

Unfortunately, many people don't know that the cinnamon sold in the USA is actually not cinnamon, but is actually a cousin of cinnamon called Cassia:


As opposed to real cinnamon:


So, does anyone know where i can find the real stuff in LA?-I've tried Whole food with no luck.



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  1. Check Surfas.

    8777 Washington Blvd
    Culver City, CA 90232
    (310) 559-4770

    1. Penzeys (www.penzeys.com , 1-800-741-7787) carries true cinnamon, 4 oz and 8 oz jars or a 1 lb bag.

      2 Replies
      1. re: JepJonson

        The Penzey's Web site (careful -- there's a comma stuck to the end of that URL) is useful, even if you're not currently in the market for cinnamon, because many of the product descriptions are quite informative. E.g., check "cinnamon."

        1. re: JepJonson

          Yes to Penzey's. They carry cassia, "true cinnamon" and Chinese and my fave, Vietnamese cinnamon. I believe the "true cinnamon" is the Sri Lankan. If there isn't a Penzey's in your area, you can order. They carry good stuff.

          1. re: James G

            Penzey's also has a store in Torrance... it's SPICE heaven! :)


            1. re: Dommy

              I went to their store today, and you're right -- it's a great place with excellent products, attractive and informative displays, and knowledgeable salespeople. I particularly liked the way they have a large jar you can open at each spice station (but you buy sealed jars or bags). More than once I changed my mind about which variety of a spice to get after smelling the jars. Penzey's has stores all over the country but only this one in California.

              1. re: Mel Gee

                And there's a Penzey's in Santa Monica on 4th St., between Arizona and Santa Monica Blvd.

          2. I agree with AquaW that it is a little rediculous to take up the teacher's podium on Chowhound about something as simple as cassia vs. cinnamon... I bought my most recent cinnamon bark at a Chinese herb market in the Cholon district of Saigon (care to start a bidding war?? :) Chowhounds are proudly not of the general eating public and I would bet that the vast majority of people who seek Chowhound out won't need the wikipedia step-by-step, (although we do generally appreciate thoroughness in postings :)

            For something a little closer to home than Vietnam, the above recs are great however for something not in Culver City or the South Bay (Both Surfas and Penzeys have very limited hours, closing between 5:30 - 6:30 so they're hard to get to during the work week), I've seen something spefically packaged as "Saigon Cinnamon" in the spice rack at Ralphs Fresh Fare on Beverly and Doheny (however I didn't take a close enough look at it to see if it was in fact the real deal.)

            Mr Taster

            12 Replies
            1. re: Mr Taster

              Mr. Taster, Vietnamese cinnamon is great stuff but it is Cassia, not "true" cinnamon. As noted below, the latter is available from the Spice House. to me, the distinction is subtle and both are delicious.

              1. re: jen kalb

                I would agree that Vietnamese Cassia is really wonderful. I refer specifically to the one I know from Penzey's: Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cassia...to my tastes, the best of what they offer in the general category of "cinnamons." I have purchased all the different ones they offer (some real cinnamons) and compared them side-by-side, and every time the Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cassia gets my vote.

                1. re: liu

                  I like both for different reasons. Ceylon Cinnamon, to me, works fabulously with fruits and fruit desserts like crumbles.

                  I like the Cassia (I agree that the Vietnamese Extra Fancy rocks) for things where I want a real cinnamon flavor blast, like cinnamon toast or coffee cake.

                2. re: Mr Taster

                  Im no expert but everything Ive read indicates that the ceylon and vietnamese are different species of cinnamonum. Ive had "true" cinnamon sticks that are really papery and ones that are thicker looking - like the most recent I got from Spice House. Please, I am not suggesting one is better or worse, only that there are different types out there.

                3. re: Mr Taster

                  My problem is my husband within the last 5 years or so has become allergic to some sort of cinnamon. He'd bitten into a Dentyne piece of 'fire' gum and his tongue was swollen for 2 weeks! Even if I have a piece of cinnamon certs and kiss him he will swell up. So, I'm trying to find out the difference on 'real' cinnamon vs what they're putting in most products now for cheaper processing.
                  I know that allergies can appear unexpectedly, but he also has diabetes which cinnamon is supposed to be good for and want to try to be able to make him things like cinnamon rolls or even pumpkin pie again.
                  Thanks for any help!

                  1. re: Chrmd

                    Cinnamon may be good for diabetes but I guarantee once you wrap it in the fat, sugar and processed flour of pumpkin pie and cinnamon rolls, any therapeutic benefit has been overturned many times over.

                    Mr Taster

                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      I know, lol, it's more that I want to actually eat it and not have to worry about contaminating him w/ it somehow :0)

                      But, I have found some sugar substitute recipes that would work for the rolls and even muffins for him.

                      1. re: Chrmd

                        If it works well for him then god bless. However, I know from personal experience that the combination of lots of fat + carbs (with or without sugar/artificial sweetener-- pizza, for example) sends my blood sugars into an uncontrollable tizzy that often takes hours to recover from.

                        Mr Taster

                    2. re: Chrmd

                      The choice of cassia or real cinnamon isn't just a matter of cost. The thin bark kind has a milder, more subtle flavor, and probably does not give a strong 'cinnamon' flavor to gum and candy. In fact what's in the candy might actually be cinnamon of any kind ('artificial and natural flavorings')



                      The only sure fire way of identifying the type of bark is to buy whole (not ground), and judge from appearance. My suggestion is to look for the thin bark quills at a Mexican grocery, and then look for thick chunks at a Vietnamese shop.

                      1. re: paulj

                        thanks! I'll go check one out downtown tomorrow when I also go looking for some herbal tea at a new shop that opened.

                      2. re: Chrmd

                        Hi, There

                        Just wanted to chime in on the allergy subject.

                        I started having a very bad lip reaction a few years ago but couldn't figure out what it was. Eventually, I tied it back to a plumping lip gloss I had been using nonstop -- which contained "cinnamon". After years of dermatologists, allergists, blood tests and even a neurologist, we finally figured it out: I'm not allergic to cinnamon. I'm allergic to cassia!

                        I avoid anything made with "cinnamon" and mint since there are sometimes some crossovers. (I even brush my teeth with vanilla and anise toothpastes. Expensive and tough to find). Since I've started doing that, I've had very few problems.

                        I can, however, eat foods that I know are made with real cinnamon. We use only the bark type to be absolutely sure no cassia has been added to the ground stuff to bulk things up. I'm finally able to eat homemade pies and desserts again!

                        Maybe try a small amount of bark to see how he does with it.

                        Good luck! He has my sympathy. :-(

                    3. Most Mexican groceries sell whole cinnamon quills that looks exactly like the Wiki example

                      1. Yoo hoo -
                        my turn.
                        Guizhi, Guipi, Yunnan cinnamon and the bark you get at the Chinese medicinal stores is amazingly good Cinnamomum cassia. Even in china, the rougui, guipi etc. sold at high price was either from Yunnan or for more money, from Viet-nam.
                        I prefer it to "True" cinnamomum zeylanicum which grows outside sri lanka. Real zeylanicum is a bit bitter. The high-grade Cinnamonum cassia has glucosides which make it naturally sweeter and which when fresh ground and then doused with hot water make an excellent drink. The cinnamon sold by spice islands etc is a LOW GRADE of cassia - when you buy the bigger pieces and grind them yourself, they are completely different in taste. Acdg to McCormick's info, most of the cassia (cinnamon) used in the US traditionally has come from Indonesia. Recently, they've been getting some of the Saigon cassia in.
                        In any case, it's available online. But here's an idea. Most sources I've seen say that Mexican cooking uses the zeylanicum over the cassia. go to surfas and buy some zeylanicum, and then go to vallarta market or another place specializing in Mexican and Latino products, and buy a bag of the cinnamon. I even think ralph's carries products packaged for the latino market. compare - it might not be the best grade but odds are that it will be zeylanicum.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Jerome

                          re Mexican cinnamon (canela): Make sure you get the soft kind since canela, as Eat Nopal mentioned above, is regularly steeped for tea, for champurrado, etc., and they also sell a hard kind for that purpose (and sometimes it's just stale).

                          1. re: Jerome

                            pretty sure surfas carries both - c. cassia and c zeylanicum. As well, viz. original post, it's all imported. so relax.

                            1. re: Jerome

                              Most stick cinnamon (canela) in latino food stores is the papery-bark zeyalnicum, aka 'true cinnamon', though IME most of the pre-ground cinnamon, the canela molida, is cassia.

                              The scent of freshly-ground zeylanicum is fleeting. I've ground my own, and I find it loses substantial amounts of its scent in a matter of hours, and becomes pretty much useless in just a few days.

                              Both kinds are labeled as canela in the food stores, so it's hard to be sure with the ground spice, but I find the ground stuff is almost always cassia.

                              With the rolls of bark, of course, it's easy to tell the difference. A few places I know carry both kinds.

                              1. re: GlenBlank

                                My favorite use of stick canela is to simmer it with piloncillo (raw sugar) to form a cinnamon tea or syrup (depending on the amount of water).

                            2. There is a great Spice shop called Savory Spice Shop and you can order it on line they have Organic True Ceylon Cinnamon and it is to die for the best I have ever had and they grind it fresh weekly, www.savoryspiceshop.com

                              1. Sri Lankan Delight, a small store in Tarzana that has all types of Sri Lankan spices etc. may also have Ceylon Cinnamon -- you can call and ask them:

                                19016 Ventura Blvd
                                Tarzana, CA 91356
                                (818) 774-1237

                                Sri Lankan Delight
                                19016 Ventura Blvd, Tarzana, CA 91356

                                1. Cassia is NOT real cinnamon. Ceylon is real cinnomon.

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: Lorieanderson1971

                                    "Cassia is NOT real cinnamon."

                                    Isn't that what the original poster said?

                                    "Ceylon is real cinnomon"

                                    Ceylon is the former name of a country now known as Sri Lanka. Do you mean that real cinnomon (sic) comes from Sri Lanka? Isn't that also what the original poster said?

                                    1. re: carolinadawg

                                      If you bite into a "Sin-a-Bun" made with cassia can you tell the difference between it and one made of "real" cinnamon from "Cey Lanka"?

                                      1. re: Servorg

                                        Don't know...never said I could. Your question should more properly be asked of others on this thread.

                                        1. re: Servorg

                                          It's very possible to tell the difference between true cinnamon and cassia.

                                          A Cinnabon made with true cinnamon instead of cassia would have a less intense flavor, less sharply "cinnamonny".

                                          From Penzey's website:
                                          Ceylon Cinnamon
                                          Complex and fragrant, with a citrus overtone and rich buff color. Although Ceylon cinnamon is less strong, its hint of citrusy flavor and lack of any bite whatsoever makes it the favorite in both England and Mexico where it is preferred for all uses. Ceylon Cinnamon, ground, from Sri Lanka.

                                          Vietnamese Extra Fancy Cinnamon
                                          Vietnamese cinnamon is the strongest, richest, and sweetest cinnamon around. For traditional cinnamon recipes such as gooey cinnamon rolls, the vibrant flavor of Vietnamese cinnamon really shines. It is so strong, that in most recipes it should be cut back by about a third, but it is perfect used full strength in any recipe where cinnamon is the main, delicious flavor. Ground, from Vietnam.

                                          Mr Taster

                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                            This seems to be a good time to link to my thread over on Food Media http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/972189

                                            1. re: Servorg

                                              Your "premise" doesn't mean people can't tell the difference between somewhat similar products.

                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                I understand where you're going with this, but your premise simply doesn't apply here.

                                                One is not "better" than the other- they are similar but different, in the way a tangerine and an orange are similar but different. (Although I'd say the differences between cassia and cinnamon are far more apparent.)

                                                It's easy to test for yourself. All you have to do is go to Penzey's with a friend, and have them set you up for a blind sniff test. The one that smells like the cinnamon you know is cassia.

                                                After you do this, report back here and let me know I was right.

                                                Mr Taster

                                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                                  Agree, Mr. T.
                                                  These are two WILDLY different spices. In fact, they really aren't very interchangeable.

                                                  If someone were to "upgrade" to "real" cinnamon in something like a cinnamon roll, I think they would be very disappointed (and foolish).

                                                2. re: Servorg

                                                  This premise could apply to the different types of cassia, but not to cassia vs. cinnamon.

                                                  Mr Taster

                                          2. re: Lorieanderson1971


                                            And this doesn't even get into the loss of "true cinnamon" as a genus in the ancient world... nobody actually even knows what that plant WAS.

                                            1. Agreed with all the posters who said the Mexican markets. I also saw it in the Mexican spice area in a Vons in those little hanging bags of spices... it was Ceylon and crazy inexpensive. You can tell by looking at it. Papery.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: gr8pimpin

                                                Just a note... There are different grades of cinnamon and cassia. Yunnan and Vietnamese cassias can be very expensive and worth it.

                                                1. re: Jerome

                                                  Nice to know you're still around & kicking, Jerome. It's been a while since I've seen you around these parts.

                                                  Mr Taster

                                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                                    Hey. taster. Should contribute more. Yelp is a cluster f.

                                                    Had good meal at Alma - probably should write it up.

                                                    1. re: Jerome

                                                      You don't need to tell me that twice. Would love to hear about Alma, though with 4 years of pharmacy school debt now under our belts, Giang Nan is more our price range when dining out.

                                                      Mr Taster