I fell in love with cassia bark as well as many other spices and botanicals during my working experience in London cocktail bars; Graphic and Zetter Townhouse, where I learnt all about gin. One of these very interesting ingredients is the cassia bark.
Cinnamomum cassia or Chinese cinnamon tree originates from Southern China where it then spread to Eastern Asia. The Chinese cassia is a one of three commonly cultivated species for its aromatic bark, which is publicly used and known as a spice. Besides the bark, cassia buds are also used as a spice in old school pickling recipes, marinades and teas.
……So, how would you describe cassia or cinnamon?
The usual descriptions for cassia’s aroma are “sweet”, “fragrant”, “warm”, “aromatic” and “delicate” , which play a big role in complementing other spices in several cuisines, mainly in India. Cassia has more delicate notes than cinnamon, therefore, when you are using it in recipes, be careful in the quantity you use. It also makes a big difference as to whether you are using powdered cinnamon/cassia, or the whole stick. Grounded cinnamon or cassia tend to be stronger and more concentrated, if you like, than the whole stick.
If you close your nose and blind taste cinnamon or cassia it will be tasteless; just like onion.
Cassia or cinnamon are part of recipes for gin, spiced rums, falernum, aromatic bitters and many other herbal remedies, which we use these days in many a cocktail.
Since it is summer and we are getting ready for another birthday party, I will share with you a recipe for iced tea, which can be enjoyed by kids and adults (by adding a twist).
Recipe-Maplewoods Iced Tea
1 Handful of mint
3 English breakfast tea bags
3 Slices of lemon
5 Slices of orange
4 Soup spoons of caster sugar
1 Teaspoon of ground cinnamon or cassia
2 Litres of boiled water
Combine all ingredients in a large jug and pour boiled water over it, stir until the sugar dissolves and let it macerate for 4 minutes. Take the tea bags and mint out, after ten minutes remove the lemons and oranges and let it cool down. Once it is in room temperature, store it in the fridge and serve over ice.
When you have a party, you can serve the non alcoholic version in a punch bowl and garnished with slices of lemon and orange as well as fresh mint sprigs. Adults can spike it with vodka, gin, rum, brandy or whisky.
Bartender’s note: “Dry roast any spices before using them to help activate the flavours.”