One of the most influential of all the spices is sugar, known to be a high-end specialty spice of Asia and the Middle East. It not only had a colossal impact on our diets but also was the initiation point in the evolution of large European fleets of trade in the early Renaissance period.
Evidence suggests that sugar cane first expanded in South East Asia. This was found out through plant remnants and DNA. The first chemically refined sugar was first produced in India about 2,500 years ago. From then onwards, the technique spread to China, Persia, and the Middle East, eventually getting to the Mediterranean in the 13 the century. During that time Cyprus and Sicily became the centers of sugar production. During the Middle Ages, sugar was considered an expensive commodity which could only be afforded by the rich, and not an everyday usable spice as it is today.
So, now that we have understood a little bit about the history, let us see how it is actually produced.
Table sugar, the one that we normally use on day to day basis, is taken from the sugar beets roots and sugarcane stalks. It is a gigantic business as the world produces 78 million tons (71 metric tons) of sugarcane on annual basis. It takes up to 18 months approximately for the new sugarcane stalks to be ready for harvesting. Though the harvesting is now done by machines placed in large plantations, previously it was done by humans. The processing of the sugarcane often occurs in mills near the location of harvest so that the sugarcanes or beets do not rot during transportation.
The sugarcane is first cut into small pieces and then crushed to extract the juice. The juice is then purified from all the plant fiber and soil particles that it might be carrying with it. The sugar-rich solution is then boiled to form a syrup of thick consistency which keeps on boiling till sugar starts crystallizing. The sugar crystals are then put into the centrifuges which separate the crystals from the syrup.
For the final step, the sugar has to go through the refining process which consists of filtering and other purification methods. Then the pure white sugar will emerge that we see in the supermarkets today.
Amita Vadlamudi enjoys learning and writing about things we see and use every day. She also wrote numerous blog posts on many other subjects. Look for some of Amita Vadlamudi’s blog posts on her Weebly site https://amitavadlamudi.weebly.com/blog