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History Of Sugar.

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History Of Sugar.

Sugar is one of the world’s oldest documented commodities, and at one time, it was so valuable that people locked it up in a sugar safe!

While chewing sugar cane for its sweet taste was likely done in prehistory, the first indications of the domestication of sugar cane were around 8000 BCE. Follow sugar’s historical journey across the world and the advances in technology that allow us to enjoy sugar today.

BCE — Before Christian Era, до Нашей Эры. CE — Christian Era, Наша Эра.

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Sugar cane.

8000 BCE — First probable domestication of sugar cane by the indigenous people of New Guinea, who chewed it raw.

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Sugar cane field.

8000 BCE – 600— Sugar cane cultivation practices spread throughout Southeast Asia, China and India via seaborne traders.

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Cyprus.

1000 — Sugar cane cultivation practices spread to Cyprus and East Africa (Zanzibar).

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Crusaders returning to Europe.

1096 – 1099 — Crusaders returned to Europe from the Holy Land with prizes of sugar, called “sweet salt”.

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1101 – 1150 — Lebanese land estates near Tyre were established to grow sugar cane and export it to Europe.

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Madeira Island, Spain.

1455 – 1480 Sugar was cultivated for large-scale refinement for the first time in Madeira Island, Spain; by the end of this period, about 70 ships were involved in the Madeira sugar trade, and refining and distribution were based in Antwerp.

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Sugar Mill.

1480 and 1501 — The Portuguese brought sugar to the New World (Brazil). Haiti/Dominican Republic, being the Spanish colonies, had its first sugar harvest. Approximately 3000 sugar mills were built in the Caribbean and South America.

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Sugar Mill in Medival Europe, XVI century.
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Sugar Mill in Europe, XIX century.

1700s or XVIII century — Sugar became an extremely popular commodity, representing 20% of all European imports; toward the end of the century, the British and French colonies in the West Indies produced 80% of the world sugar.

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Steam-powered sugar mill, 1820s.

The first steam-powered sugar mill was constructed in Jamaica in 1768.

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Sugar mill at work.

1800s or XIX century — Edward Charles Howard invented a more fuel-efficient method of refining sugar, which boiled the cane juice in a closed kettle heated by steam and held under partial vacuum in 1813. It was called “Howard’s vacuum pan”.

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Howard’s vacuum pan, 1813.

Cuba became the richest land in the Caribbean in XIX century (1800-1899); it was the only major island free of mountainous terrain and ideal for sugar cane production.

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Cuban sugar plantations.

History of sugar manufacture changed forever in late 18th century when German scientists and chemist Andreas Marggraf identified sucrose in beet root, and Franz Achard built fist sugar beet processing factory in modern day Poland. Production of sugar from beet did not properly started however until Napoleonic wars, when trade blockades forced Napoleon to start local production of sugar, managing eventually to produce from beet 30% of European sugar.

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Franz Achard.

Franz Karl Achard was the man behind the project to find an alternative to sugar cane, by using beet sugar instead.

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First Beet-Sugar Factory in the World — Silesia, 1802.

Franz was a German, born in Berlin in 1753. Franz studied many subjects at the Royal Academy of Sciences, although his real passion was the refining of sugar, of which he became passionate. In 1747 he struck gold when he discovered that sugar beets contained sugar.

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Beet fields.

He then decided to plant these sugar-bearing plants in the garden of his Manor house in Kaulsdorf in Berlin. In 1796 he invented an industrial process of extraction of beet sugar. He found a financial support in 1802 from the Prussian King Frederick William III to build a sugar factory in Silesia.

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Modern sugar factory and a beet plantation.

By 2021, Russia, France, the United States, Germany, and Turkey were the world's five largest sugar beet producers.

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