Table Sugar: Cane and Beet Sugars and Syrups

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
The processing of cane and beet sugar is much more complicated than the production of honey and maple and palm sugars, and for one basic reason. Bees and tree tappers begin with an isolated plant fluid that contains little else besides water and sugar. But the raw material for table sugar is the crushed whole stem of the cane, or the whole root of the beet. Cane and beet juices include many substances—proteins, complex carbohydrates, tannins, pigments— that not only interfere with the sweet taste themselves, but decompose into even less palatable chemicals at the high temperatures necessary for the concentration process. Cane and beet sugar must therefore be separated from these impurities.