Indonesian cinnamon is commonly available in Britain and can be distinguished from other types by its physical appearance - rough-shaped, thick and dark-coloured bark pieces or stiff quills as opposed to the much lighter-coloured, more brittle quills of Sri Lankan cinnamon.
Indonesian cinnamon tree
Indonesian cinnamon leaves and flower buds
Indonesian cinnamon pieces
The Indonesian cinnamon plant is of Malaysian distribution and was first cultivated in Western Sumatra in the region close to the city of Padang. Most Indonesian cinnamon is still grown in Sumatra today.
Lauraceae (laurel family).
Strongly aromatic. As with Sri Lankan cinnamon it shows only marginal bitterness and astringency, but it tastes darker and lacks the exciting overtones that are unique to the Sri Lankan variety.
Most languages have no separate words for different types of cinnamon and distinctions are made by the use of qualifying adjectives, e.g. "Sri Lankan cinnamon", "Chinese cinnamon". Some names of cinnamon in European languages relate to Latin canella "small tube or pipe", referring to the form of cinnamon quills and this is also the root of English "cannula", French cannelle, Spanish canela, Finnish kaneli, Dutch kaneel, Latvian kanēlis and Bulgarian and Greek kanela. Similar is Portuguese canforeira "cinnamon tree" which literally means "bearer of pipes".
Species name burmannii is a tribute to Dutch botanist Johannes Burmann (1707–1779), Professor of Botany at Amsterdam University and friend and collaborator of Linnaeus.
Indonesian cinnamon comes close to the best Sri Lankan quality and is often falsely traded as such. Although most agree that Sri Lankan cinnamon is the best, Sri Lankan cinnamon and Indonesian cinnamon are rated similarly and above the Chinese cinnamon variety in Europe. In the US, Chinese cinnamon is the more common quality, although for baking many cooks switch to Sri Lankan cinnamon. Chinese cinnamon has a coarser fragrance, a bitter and astringent taste and contains much more mucilaginous components. In Europe, Vietnamese cinnamon has an even poorer reputation.
Surprisingly, Indonesians do not use cinnamon frequently. It sometimes appears in sweets or is added in small amounts to Indian or Arabic influenced meat stews (a well-known example is rendang, a spicy beef stew very popular in Western Sumatra).
Whereas Sri Lankan cinnamon is traded in form of slender and fragile quills, composed of very thin light reddish-brown bark layers, Indonesian cinnamon is much thicker, darker in colour and less easy to break. Chinese cinnamon or cassia is normally not peeled as carefully as the other varieties and the outer surface often looks uneven and rough, dark brown in colour, thick and brittle.