Sugar - where does it come from?


Sugar creates happiness. Life is when you eat sugar once or twice a week for dessert. And there is nothing wrong with that.

/ Adriano Zumbo /

You probably drink sugar almost every day without realizing it, whether it's added to your morning coffee or tea to eat some sweets. Sugar is also one of the main ingredients in baking.

In this article, let’s look at what sugar is; how it is grown; produced and what are the types of sugar.


Sugar is all known as food, and it is. Ordinary sugar is a carbohydrate that is considered a valuable nutrient and provides the body with the necessary energy. Other carbohydrates, such as milk sugar, are also called sugars. 

Sugar is obtained mainly from sugar cane and sugar beet.

History of sugar

Sugar was first produced from sugar cane in India, about 4000 years BC.

The word 'sugar' is considered to be derived from the Sanskrit शर्करा (śarkara), which means 'ground or candied sugar', originally 'groats, gravel'. Sanskrit literature from ancient India, written between 1500 and 500 BC, provides the first documentation of sugar cane cultivation and sugar production in the Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent.

The production of cane sugar granules from sugar cane juice in India a little over two thousand years ago, followed by improvements in the refining of crystal granules in India in the first centuries of our era.

The spread of cane sugar cultivation and production in the West Indies and tropical parts of America began in the 16th century, followed by more intensive production improvements in the 17th and 19th centuries.

The development of beet sugar, high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners began around the 19th and 20th centuries.

At the end of the Middle Ages, the world-famous sugar was very expensive and was considered a "fine spice", but technological improvements made it much cheaper. goods.

Sugar in Latvia

Sugar beet cultivation in Latvia began on a larger scale only after 1927, but especially since 1932, when the Latvian population consumed more sugar produced in Latvia than imported from abroad. 

In order to promote sugar consumption, a local sugar advertisement was started in 1927, and President Kārlis Ulmanis called on the population to put three tablespoons of sugar with tea or coffee - one for each Latvian sugar factory.

Today, Latvians consume only imported sugar, as the Jelgava and Liepāja sugar factories were closed in 2007 (Jēkabpils sugar factory was closed earlier). As a result of these events, sugar beet growing in Latvia has run out and sugar imports have increased.

Sugar factories in Latvia

  • In 1784, the first sugar factory in Latvia was built - Rāves sugar factory, in Sarkandaugava. More information here >>
  • In 1926, the Jelgava Sugar Factory was opened - as a private joint stock company, the following year it became a state-owned company. More information here >>
  • In 1932, the Jēkabpils Sugar Factory (original name - Krustpils Sugar Factory) was opened. More information here >>
  • In 1933, the Liepāja Sugar Factory was opened. More information here >>

Many of these sugar factories ceased sugar production as part of the European Union's sugar reform.

At present, no sugar is produced in Latvia.  

But you must have heard and seen - "Dansukker Jelgava Sugar". As the Jelgava Sugar Factory had to be closed, in the course of this process Jelgavas cukurfabrika sold to the joint stock company Nordic Sugar, certain equipment, stocks of the produced sugar, as well as the sugar brand Jelgavas cukurs. 

It was obliged to name the new combined brand by including the name "Dansukker" in the name, which was also done, and which was still called "Dansukker Jelgava Sugar". 

This sugar differs from the sugar traditionally produced in Europe, it has coarser, larger crystal grains, which provide the historically traditional special structure and taste of "Jelgava sugar". feeling".

Sugar from sugar cane

Sugarcane is a tropical plant and can only be cultivated in countries near the equator or in areas with an average temperature of 24 ° C, combined with strong sunlight and heavy seasonal rainfall or irrigation of abundant water supplies. The largest regions of cane sugar are Brazil, India, China, Thailand, Australia, South Africa, Mexico and Guatemala.

Sugarcane is a type of grass with a bamboo-like shortened stem that grows up to five meters in height and five centimeters in diameter. Sugarcane is grown on large farms called plantations. Cane is usually harvested in the colder months. Sugar cane cannot be stored after harvest, so it must be transported quickly to neighboring processing plants to reduce spoilage.

Sugar from sugar beet

sugar beet

Sugar beet is a root crop that is successfully grown in many parts of the world, including Asia, Europe and North America. They can be grown in these temperate climates due to their ability to withstand frost. Cultivation techniques and raw materials must be adapted to the region's climate and soil types.

For example, the land must have a small stone content. The maximum yield is obtained only if the spacing between rows and seeds is optimized. Sugar beets require about 50 centimeters of water during the growing season and are very sensitive to moisture levels. Excessive irrigation of fields can reduce the sugar content of sugar beet and yields can be reduced by irrigation. It is also important that the right amount of fertilizer is used in the right amount to ensure a good harvest.

Ripe sugar beets are almost white and look like turnips. Like sugar beets, the sugar content can vary from year to year and in different geographical areas. For example, the sucrose content of sugar beet in Europe is closer to 18% due to climate differences.

Sugar production from sugar beet

  • To get sugar, beets cut - into small pieces that look like french fries.
  • To remove the sugar from the beets, rinse the cuts in warm water at 70 ° C.
  • Warm sugar juice (raw juice) contains about 15% sugar, but it also contains 1-2% impurities (non-sugars) from which the juice must be purified. Sugar juice is purified with calcium hydroxide.
  • Sugar juice, which looks like a liquid, light yellow liquid, is called refined juice. The juice is transferred to an evaporator, where water is boiled to make the juice thicker. The resulting liquid, called puree, contains about 70% sugar.
  • The curd is pumped into large cooking machines, where small sugar crystals are formed.
  • The thick, brown juice, now called the crystalline mass, is centrifuged to separate the white sugar from the brown syrup. The syrup returns to the cooking machine and is boiled again until there is no more sugar in the extract.
  • The remaining product is called molasses. Its sugar content is too low to get sugar. Molasses is used in the production of animal feed, yeast and alcoholic beverages.
  • Finally, the sugar is dried and stored in silos. After the beet harvest season, the tassels are full of sugar, but they are gradually emptied during the year by selling the sugar to shops, production companies and exporting it.

Types of sugar

various sugars

Granulated sugar

Most people use this type of white sugar every day, and it is most commonly used in baking. Granulated sugar has all the molasses content removed, giving it a white color.

Brown sugar

Dark and light brown sugars contain a large proportion of naturally occurring molasses - the more molasses, the darker the sugar.

Golden sugar

This is a brand new sugar recently developed by Domino. It is a less processed version of granulated sugar. It retains some of the naturally occurring molasses, but can be used for a cup instead of white sugar.

Sugar powder or confectionery sugar

This light, fluffy sugar is obtained by crushing granulated sugar and adding a small amount of cornstarch to prevent sticking.

Raw sugar

Also called turbinado sugar, this product is usually light brown in color and has larger crystals. It is filtered only minimally to preserve a large part of the natural molasses content.