Sugar is a sweet material that consists essentially of sucrose obtained from sugarcane or sugar beets.
It is typically colorless or white when pure, and is commonly used to sweeten foods and beverages.
Sugar is one of the world’s oldest documented commodities.
It is thought that sugarcane was first used by man in Polynesia from where it spread to India.
One of the earliest historical references to sugarcane is in Chinese manuscripts dating to 8th century BC, which state that the use of sugarcane originated in India.
In 510 BC the Emperor Darius of what was then Persia invaded India where he found “the reed which gives honey without bees.”
The plants remained exotic in Europe until the arrival of the Arabs who started cultivating them in Sicily and Spain.
Only after the Crusades, whose soldiers returned with what they perceived to be “sweet salt,” did sugar begin to rival honey as the sweetener in Europe.
Early in the 12th century, Venice acquired some villages near Tyre and set up estates to produce sugar for export to Europe. It supplemented the use of honey, which had previously been the only available sweetener.
In the 15th century, Venice was the chief sugar refining and distribution center in Europe.
Also in the 15th century, Columbus sailed to the Americas, the “New World”. It is recorded that in 1493 he took sugarcane plants to grow in the Caribbean. The climate there was so advantageous for the growth of the cane that an industry was quickly established.
With the European colonization of the Americas, the Caribbean became the world’s largest source of sugar. These islands could grow sugarcane using slave labor at vastly lower prices than cane sugar imported from the East.
Sugar was a luxury in Europe until the 18th century, when it became more widely available.
Sugar beet was first identified as a source of sugar in 1747. However, it was kept a secret until the Napoleonic wars at the start of the 19th century when Britain blockaded sugar imports to continental Europe. By 1880 sugar beet had replaced sugarcane as the main source of sugar on continental Europe.
Until the late 19th century, sugar was purchased in loaves, which had to be cut using implements called sugar nips. In later years, granulated sugar was more usually sold in bags.
Sugar cubes were produced in the nineteenth century. The first inventor of a process to produce sugar in cube form was Moravian Jakub Kryštof Rad, director of a sugar company in Dačice. He began sugar-cube production after being granted a five-year patent for the process on January 23, 1843.
The etymology reflects the spread of the commodity. From Sanskrit śarkarā, meaning “ground or candied sugar,” came Persian shakar, then to 12th century French sucre and the English sugar.
Brown sugar is a sucrose sugar product with a distinctive brown color due to the presence of molasses (a viscous product resulting from refining sugarcane or sugar beets into sugar).
In most parts of the world, sugar is an important part of the human diet, making food more palatable and providing food energy
Sugar art is the practice of creating confectionery sculptures that are both decorative and edible. It involves the creation of sculptures made entirely of sugar and sugar derivatives. Sugar art uses a combination of many different techniques of manipulating sugar including sugar lace, spun sugar, cast sugar, pulled sugar and blown sugar. Commonly created shapes are flowers, leaves, ribbons, spirals, baskets, spheres, fruit, animals, vases, birds and fish.
The tallest sugar sculpture ever created measured 4.97 m (16 ft 4.3 in) and was made by Regis Courivaud (France) at Mall of America, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA on 21 April 2006 during the filming of Guinness World Records week for the Food Network channel. The sculpture was a replica of the Empire State Building in New York.
The tallest sugar cube tower measured 2.08 m (6 ft 10 in) and was built by Camille Courgeon (France) in Blanquefort, France, on 1 July 2013. The completed tower used 2,669 individual cubes and was completed in 2 hours 59 minutes.
The country that stands as the worlds leading sugar consumer is Belize, who consumed 62.6 kg (138 lb) per capita. In comparison, the UK consumed 34.3 kg (75 lb 10 oz).
The average person consumes about 24 kilograms (53 lb) of sugar each year, or 33.1 kilograms (73 lb) in developed countries, equivalent to over 260 food calories per day.
Cotton candy is a spun sugar confection that resembles cotton. It is made of pure sugar sometimes with food coloring or other flavoring added.
Soft drink makers such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi use sugar in other nations, but switched to high-fructose corn syrup in the United States in 1984.