How Old Is This Sugar ?

Originally, people chewed the cane raw to extract its sweetness. Indians discovered how to crystallize sugar during the Gupta dynasty, around AD 350.

Sugarcane was originally from tropical South Asia and Southeast Asia. Different species likely originated in different locations with S. barberi originating in India and S. edule and S. officinarum coming from New Guinea

During the Muslim Agricultural Revolution, Arab entrepreneurs adopted the techniques of sugar production from India and then refined and transformed them into a large-scale industry. Arabs set up the first large scale sugar mills, refineries, factories and plantations.

The 1390s saw the development of a better press, which doubled the juice obtained from the cane. This permitted economic expansion of sugar plantations to Andalucia and to the Algarve. The 1420s saw sugar production extended to the Canary Islands, Madeira and the Azores.

The Portuguese took sugar to Brazil. Hans Staden, published in 1555, writes that by 1540 Santa Catarina Island had 800 sugar mills and that the north coast of Brazil, Demarara and Suriname had another 2,000. Approximately 3,000 small mills built before 1550 in the New World created an unprecedented demand for cast iron gears, levers, axles and other implements. Specialist trades in mold-making and iron-casting developed in Europe due to the expansion of sugar production. Sugar mill construction developed technological skills needed for a nascent industrial revolution in the early 17th century.

After 1625 the Dutch carried sugarcane from South America to the Caribbean islands - where it became grown from Barbados to the Virgin Islands. The years 1625 to 1750 saw sugar become worth its weight in gold . With the European colonization of the Americas, the Caribbean became the world's largest source of sugar. These islands could supply sugarcane using slave labor and produce sugar at prices vastly lower than those of cane sugar imported from the East.

During the eighteenth century, sugar became enormously popular and the sugar market went through a series of booms. As Europeans established sugar plantations on the larger Caribbean islands, prices fell, especially in Britain. By the eighteenth century all levels of society had become common consumers of the former luxury product. At first most sugar in Britain went into tea, but later confectionery and chocolate s became extremely popular. Suppliers commonly sold sugar in solid cones and consumers required a sugar nip, a pliers-like tool, to break off pieces.

Beginning in the late 18th century, the production of sugar became increasingly mechanized. The steam engine first powered a sugar mill in Jamaica in 1768, and soon after, steam replaced direct firing as the source of process heat. During the same century, Europeans began experimenting with sugar production from other crops. Andreas Marggraf identified sucrose in beet root and his student Franz Achard built a sugar beet processing factory in Silesia. However the beet-sugar industry really took off during the Napoleonic Wars, when France and the continent were cut off from caribbean sugar. Today 30% of the world's sugar is produced from beets.

Today, a large beet refinery producing around 1,500 tonnes of sugar a day needs a permanent workforce of about 150 for 24-hour production.

 

 

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