Taste test: Cinnamon

Whether using it in baking or shaking it with sugar on toast, cinnamon is one of the most used spices in the kitchens of our Taster's Choice judges. But why the big price difference? Some brands in our survey of eight were priced at under $1. Others were four times that. We found that price isn't an indicator of taste.

Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent
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Product/Score (out of 100) McCormick Saigon/83 Spice Islands Organic/82 Market Pantry/81
How'd it look? Dark like chocolate. Like Georgia red clay. Like ground-up terra-cotta. A pretty shade of sienna. Pale and finely ground, like tinted baby powder. Rusty.
Judges' comments Judges raved about this cinnamon from Vietnam and Southeast Asia, noting its peppery flavor and dense ground. "It's a little sweet, with a hot aftertaste," said one panelist, who thought it would be great in a curry or a savory dish. Panelists liked the powdery texture of this brand. They described it as sweet but strong, almost bitter. One panelist described it as smooth with a kick. "It's the color and texture that you expect from cinnamon," said another. "It fills your nostrils with cinnamon scent." "Peppery followed by a little heat" is how judges described the Target house brand. "Yummy," "tasty" and "airy" were other adjectives. The store brand was just as delicious as more costly selections.
Would they buy? All four judges said yes. All four judges said yes. Three of the four judges said yes.
Shopping information Widely available. $3.64 for 1.87 ounces from Wal-Mart. Widely available. $3.99 for 1.5 ounces from Publix. Target house brand. 99 cents for 2.37 ounces
Also sampled: Great Value ($1.24 for 2.37 ounces from Wal-Mart, 78 points); Tone's ($1.43 for 1.76 ounces from Wal-Mart, 60 points); 5th Season (50 cents for 2.37 ounces from Wal-Mart, 57 points); Badia (62 cents for a 0.5-ounce packet from Wal-Mart, 68 points); and Cinnamon Mill, with built-in grinder ($4.99 for 0.81 ounces from Publix, 47 points).

Panelists: Nan Jensen, registered dietitian with Pinellas County Cooperative Extension; Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620; Jim Yockey, aesthetician at Anu You Institute; and Times food critic Laura Reiley. All foods were tasted blind.

Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or e-mail them to jkeeler@sptimes.com. Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to food.tampabay.com.

Taste test: Cinnamon 04/14/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 4:30am]

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