The journey of crystal sugar

What is sugar?

The taste of sugar is sweet. With sweetness in the food, we make assumptions that the food was delicious,  especially kuih, porridge and baked goods.

Who would eat if the doughnut that we buy has a salty taste isn’t it?  

crystal sugar
Sugar is a basic necessity in every home

I believe that sugar as a flavour enhancer acts tremendously in improving the taste of food, making it sweet and palatable.

In the past, sugar-making activities used to be done on a small scale. The usage of sugar as medicine was normal practice on those days and thus considered a luxury item. 

Our ancestors worked very hard in the field under the sun in order to produce one pound of sugar.

The labour was forced to the extent that they barely could live. It was hard for human beings with limited energy and resources.

How does sugar preserve the food?

In cooking, sugar has two forms which are syrup and crystallised form. Both of these can be used to preserve the food.

The syrup is used to preserve fruits such as apples, pears, peaches, apricot or plums.  The crystallized form is for cooking and enhances the taste of baked goods such as biscuits, cakes and muffins. 

Sugar and salt are natural preservatives. It produced an environment with high osmotic pressure inside the food. 

This means sugar has the ability to absorb water from the food and make the bacteria unable to survive and multiply inside the food.  Thus makes the food last longer.

Not only that sugar acts as a humectant in baked goods which keep things moist,  thus extending the shelf life. 

How sugar is made from sugar cane? 

The sugar cane juice is heated and clarified, then condensed by boiling it until it forms a thick syrup known as “massecuite”. This thick syrup is then separated into sugar crystals and molasses. 

The separation of the sugar crystal and molasses is accomplished by the centrifugal method. Centrifugal sugar is also known as raw sugar. 

This raw sugar undergoes a refining process whereby melting the raw sugar, removal of the impurities and recrystallization of sucrose under sanitary conditions. 

The above step is considered the commerce way of making the sugar. 

In a certain part of the world whereby the sugar is made for the local market using hand-held centrifugal for instance like jaggery in Nigeria, rapadura of Brazil and gur of India.

They are made in a small batch to cater to the local taste. 

Sugar used to be one of the luxury items 

Adding sugar in drinks and food is a must. Did you know that the people in the past struggled to obtain one? 

They paid expensively for one pound of sugar as they treated it as one form of medicine. For example, cypre or red sugar made from not much-refined sugar to treat enema.  

Today, without sugar, our dessert would not be sweet and it would not be delicious.

For me, I love to make drinks, sweets and delicious food, especially in this hot sunny season.

Our traditional cordial was made from boiling crystal sugar with added red food colouring and the pandan leaves to get a nice aroma to quench the thirst of scorching hot days.

So in this blog post let us appreciate how this luxury item managed to reach us in a more economical way. 

It began in India 

Sugar cane is native to India, particularly in the Ganges delta. 

The first evidence of crystal sugar production appears at about 500 B.C according to the Sanskrit text that indicates it took place in northern India. 

Later, it was learned that in the 7th century, Emperor Tai-Hung sent workmen to learn the art of making sugar in Lyu (India) and more particularly in Mo-Ki-To(Bengal). 

The Indian origin of the word sugar cane came from the word sarkara. At that time, the principal use of sugar is for medicine. 

The idea of the planting and harvesting of sugar cane was spread from India to China and later on to the Mediterranean around A.D. 600. 

Before it reaches the Middle East, the Persian knows about the craft of making sugar from sugar cane. They discovered “ a reed that gives honey without the aid of bees”. 

However, due to invasions and conquest, the knowledge of making sugar spread to the Middle East. 

Since then, the Arabs installed the first industrial sugar refinery on the island of Candia in the year 1000.

At that time sugar was the basis of the economic power of the Mediterranean ports. 

However, in the Mediterranean, the industry was small scale and unable to produce in large quantities, which therefore remains a luxury product. 

How does sugar become expensive?

The sugar does travel from the Middle East to Europe through the Mediterranean.

When sugar passes through Provence on its way to England by land, the merchant constantly needs to unload and payments must be made to the feudal lord which makes the sugar become expensive. 

This is one of the reasons the sea route by the Atlantic was developed. The route is longer than travelled on the land, but no constant unloading or payment needs to be done. 

However, in the 12th Century tax for sugar appeared. It was reported that a toll on sugar known as the lende was introduced in 1153. 

As Brazil and West Indies farmers planted sugar cane in mass production, the price was significantly reduced. Lower prices lead to increased consumption and then it becomes everyday consumption. 

Since then, we can see the price of sugar becoming cheap, easier to transport and easy to store. For this reason, it becomes a highly requested sweetener. 

Today we can get sugar from our nearby grocery shop that is piled up on the shelves.

It is super easy for us. We just grab the packet of sugar and pay to the cashier at the counter.

A very easy and simple transaction compared to those days. A packet of sugar weighs one kilogram.

One doesn’t need to buy more just enough to sustain the family. 

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