We can follow the trail of sugar with the introduction of sugarcane cultivation in Mesopotamia, to Levant and from there on to the islands of the eastern Mediterranean, especially Cyprus, by the 10th century. This started with the Muslims traders who took the sugar from India to further, western shores.
The Crusaders who visited Jerusalem at the time saw caravans filled with what they referred to as “sweet salt”- funny huh, now we probably refer to salt as salty sugar, considering sugar is so much more common now than it was back then. And of course, the Crusaders took this awesome new sweet back to the old world i.e. Europe and introduced it to everyone there. Soon, the demand for sugar grew, people wanted more of the sweet stuff, and the only way to give it to them was to start growing your own sugarcane!
Venice set up estates in the early 12th century to produce sugar for export, where it was at the time a supplement sweetener, second to honey. Crusade chronicler William of Tyre, writing in the late 12th century, described sugar as “a most precious product, very necessary for the use and health of mankind.” Yes, sugar was a luxury condiment, right up there with gold and musk and pearls and spices, what a lofty position indeed for something that you can today find in your kitchen!
The Sugar factory and the sugarcane plantation always co-existed in the very same plantation. Why you ask? The sugarcane once harvested was too expensive and heavy to transport to a separate factory, back then the only way to transport items was via animal labour or human labour, both of which were expensive and time consuming. It thus made so much more sense to keep the cane, the sugar, the press- everything in one place! This doesn”t mean that the process was as easy as it is today- with all our industrialization. Once the cane was harvested- by hand, it had to then be crushed, the extracted juice boiled to concentrate it into granules- all of this being an extremely intense and hands-on job for the workers. But don’t worry, the story gets better here onward.
Things started to change in the late 1300s, as a better sugar press was developed which doubled the juice obtained as compared to the traditional press.
And then Columbus came along, and discovered a new place- America, also referred to as “The New World”, he was actually looking to visit India, but we all know that story, don’t we?
Now in America, it was obvious that the sugar trade and sugar plantations had casino online found a new home. The various colonies from the different countries of Europe established their own sugar mills and plantations to supply the item back to their customers in the home country.
The Portuguese started the first mills in Brazil and soon there were more than 2000 sugar mills all over southern America. Approximately 3,000 small mills built before 1550 in the New World created an unprecedented demand for implements used in the trade.
All of these mills had to have highly important, mass produced implements and technology- and guess what that led to? Probably the Industrial revolution!! Yes, factories, which led to the railway transport explosion which led to life as we know it today. It all probably began with an obsession for sugar- that sweet delight!
Of course the price of sugar declined slowly as production became multi-sourced. By the 18th century all levels of society had become common consumers of the former luxury product. Sugar which began with being used only in tea was soon a part of confectionery jams, and other savory items.
And thus ends our story of how sugar, began its history in India as Shakkara, undertook a journey that saw it become a luxury item in Europe, was soon being created in America, leading to the beginning of the Industrial revolution, and then took over the world as the most common commodity that everyone across the world uses!