A history of sugar

Sugar has a pleasant sweet flavor, and everybody likes it. Now you can easily purchase it, but over a thousand years ago, sugar was considered an expensive imported spice in Europe.

India’s Veda was the first book in history to record sugar production from sugarcane(300 B.C.). While in China, the first record of sugarcane cultivation is Chu Ci in Dong Zhou Dynasty.(500 B.C.)

In the Greco-Roman Period, Europeans didn’t know about the existence of sugar and could only use honey. After the 11th Century, Crusaders brought sugar from India to Europe.

But until the Renaissance, sugar was still a luxury only for imperial celebrations. At that time, both sugar and salt were considered preservatives for pickled food or a supplement to bitter medicine, rather than a regular food.

During the 17th-19th Centuries, the sugar tax was the most important revenue for countries like England, France and Holland, which laid the foundation for the Industrial Revolution in Europe.

English people first drank their tea plain without sugar just like Chinese people, but later they turned to the Indian-style black tea with sugar.

At that time, a cup of afternoon tea with milk and sugar represented high social status and good taste. Because of sugar, coffee and chocolate, with a natural bitter flavor, gradually became popular.

Since then, sugar became a superstar in Europe. In the futures market, sugar was like today’s petroleum, whose price was cared so much about by the investors.

Later in the 20th Century, sugar was no longer a luxury only for celebrations but became closely related to people’s daily life.

People drank tea, coffee, cocoa with sugar all day, and eat all other kinds of cookies and desserts.

After 1985, Taiwan became a Japanese colony. In 1901, Taiwan began to build up sugar refineries and imported “five-cent trains” from Hawaii to transport sugarcanes as well as passengers. At that time, Taiwan had 3000 kilometers’ standard railroad and another 3000 kilometers’ railway for “five-cent trains” and was therefore known to the whole world as a railway kingdom. Because of the dense railway network, by 1938, Taiwan’s annual production of sugarcanes reached 1.41 million tons, ranking No.4 in the world, and its export sales ranked No.3.

Every year after harvesting, the entire sugarcane crop must be given to Japan companies, which offered unfair prices and standards, and sugarcane farmers were heavily exploited.

Zhang Huilong, expert on sugar manufacturing: I heard from my father that the entire crop was given to Japanese, their sugar plants. There was a saying that only the most stupid people would let Japanese companies weigh their sugarcanes. Using their balances, ten sugarcane commissioners weighed less than 10 jin (5 kg). 10 people, commissioners, climbed onto the sugarcane balance and would weigh less than 10 jin.

Most of the sugar in Taiwan is extracted from sugarcanes and can be categorized according to their fineness during manufacturing. Brown sugar, also known as molasses, can be obtained simply by boiling and drying sugarcane juice. After getting rid of the color and impurities, sugar, also known as half-brown sugar or Jinsha, can be obtained. With several extra refinement procedures, sugar will then turn into high-purity white sugar. After dissolving in water and natural recrystallization, white sugar turns into crystal sugar. The finer it is, the higher sugar content while lower nutrition level it has.