Food History

Transformation of Mishri to Chini to Sugar


When Alexander the Great visited India, he had a few thing the blew away his mind. He saw in India the sheep’s wool grows on trees, elephants were a royalty and not horses he was amazed, and honey grew on sticks and which the indians turned it into the crystal.

Yes even before 327 B.C.E. when Alexander the great arrived in India we were producing sugar. The Romans took molasses from India but were unable to produce sugar the way Indians did. It was one of the best-kept secrets in the world.

Even the Greek physician Dioscorides in the 1st century (AD) wrote: “There is a kind of coalesced honey called sakcharon (i.e. sugar or shakkar) found in reeds in India and Eudaimon Arabia (Yemen) similar in consistency to salt and brittle enough to be broken between the teeth like salt. It is good dissolved in water for the intestines and stomach, and (can be) taken as a drink to help (relieve) a painful bladder and kidneys.”

Where food Meets History.
Alexander the Great. Mosaic of the Battle of Alexander and Darius III.

As the hub of sugar and spice, the trades flourished past Gupta Dynasty. The fall of a single powerful ruler was on the decline, so our were secrets open in bits pieces and fragments. At the end of the Golden Era of Indian history when Harshwardhana was the King of India. His capital city was located in Kanauj as the emperor of North India. During this period a Buddhist traveler Monk called Huan Tsang (Xuanzang) also came to India. He came with a simple mission to know all the things about this mysterious nation where Lord Buddha was born. In this process, he took sugar cane and its making process from India to China. During the same period, Tang dynasty of China started using sugar in desserts and every food item possible.

When shakkar left India and Romans said “Sugar is made in Arabia as well, but Indian sugar is better. It is a kind of honey found in cane, white as gum, and it crunches between the teeth. It comes in lumps the size of a hazelnut. Sugar is used only for medical purposes.”

As the salt was broken down into finer crystals and so was our sugar from the rough shape of Shakkar to the fine crystals of Chini. As it returned to India from China, it was much better polished and was cheaper than India was producing at that period. These events occurred between 15th to 17th century A.D.  During the same period the trade routes had opened up by Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish and British colonies.
All you need is to find which is Salt and which one is sugar.

As British East India Company laid down its roots in India and China, they saw this sweet spice as one of the richest commodities to trade. They took the crops as well as the labors from India and China to cultivate in various parts of the “New World.” From Caribbeans to Mauritius to Fiji to a round trip across the Pacific to Australia. As we started refining sugar to various forms and size, the innovation brought to the shape of sugar granules to Sugar Cube. Jakub Kryštof Rad a Swiss-Czech industrial manager who created various processes in the sugar production industry. He is credited for the creation of sugar cubes.

Bonus Sugar Facts

Mishri From Lucknow

There is a sweet shop in the city of Lucknow “Ramashray Sweets” this place established in 1889 (approx). Since last 200 years, they have kept the process of processing Mishri. Mishri flavored sugar, and for the love of sugar, one must visit Ramashray. As per the season, they sell kesar or khus mishri, they also have a shop in Hazratgunj Lucknow.

Shakar to Shakkar to Sugar

Most of the Gujarati’s use the word shakar, whereas the people up North of India use shakkar and as per the Greek and Roman literature, it was called sakcharon. Which later came into Latin dictionary saccharon which was converted to azucar in Spanish and sugar in English.

India imports sugar

India is a sugar consumer at large. We are the worlds 2nd largest producer of sugar and yet time, and again India imports sugar from China. Recently India imported more than 500,000 tons of sugar from China duty-free. We are a sugar-hungry nation for sure it is estimated overall consumption of sugar in India is 25 Million tons. Which can be directly related an average Indian consumes 20.8 kg of sugar every year.


Biography and History of King Harshavardhana



One thought on “Transformation of Mishri to Chini to Sugar

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