In this blog post, I review India Tree Dark Muscovado Sugar sourced from Mauritius by India Tree Gourmet Spices & Specialties, based in Seattle.
As part of my "Sweetener Review Series," I occasionally write about one specific brand or product to help you explore new options or decide on which sweetener is right for you. I do not promote or endorse one brand or sweetener over another. My reviews take into consideration all aspects of the sweetener, such as chemical composition, source, production process, uses, recipes, taste, appearance, certifications (fair trade, organic), how to store, and how they compare with table sugar and other common sweeteners.
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Brand: India Tree
Ingredient: Cane Sugar
Product of Mauritius, a volcanic island off the southeast coast of Africa
Sourced and Distributed by India Tree Gourmet Spices & Specialties, Seattle, WA. The company sells a variety of cane sugars such as demerara sugar, light muscovado, white sugar cubes, brown sugar cubes, fondant & icing sugar, caster sugar, and decoratives sugars.
What is Dark Muscovado?
The term muscovado is used in Africa to refer to unrefined cane sugars, which were traditionally produced in small batches for local markets with simple equipment and little capital using hundreds of years old know-how.
Put simply, their refining process involves collecting the cane juice, clarifying it, and boiling its water off through slow simmering in open kettles. As cane juice is concentrated, a sticky dark syrup - called cane molasses - surrounds the pure sugar (sucrose) crystals.
The color of the resulting brown sugars depends on the amount of the molasses they retain following the crystallization of sucrose. Their molasses content varies from 8 to14%, which gives them a strong flavor and dark brown color.
The processes used to refine and concentrate the cane juice vary with the manufacturer, but a typical unrefined sugar is not centrifuged to remove the original cane molasses at any stage during their refining.
To learn more about unrefined sugars, refer to three of my previous blog posts:
4 Myths about Unrefined Sugar and How it Compares with Common Sweeteners
What Sugar Is It?
India Tree Dark Muscovado details:
Type of sweetener: unrefined cane sugar with about 10% molasses
Sugar composition: 88-92% sucrose, max 4% invert sugar (glucose & fructose)
Other components: 4% water, 1% minerals & protein, 3% other trace substances
Crystals size: 0.3 to 0.4 mm
Same calories as table sugar (which contains 99.95% sucrose) --- 4 calories per g; 16 calories per teaspoon (4g); 48 calories per tablespoon; 900 calories per cup
Nutrition Facts: Note the label below lists nutrients per 100g of muscovado, but this is a huge serving size. Always keep in mind that compared to refined and raw sugars, the unrefined sweeteners have slightly more nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. However, when we have one teaspoon (4 grams) or a tablespoon (12 grams) of muscovado, the actual amount of those micronutrients is minuscule. We would have to eat a truly unhealthful amount of muscovado (100 g or even a cup) to get our daily micronutrient requirements or the positive health effects from it. The calories and sugar content in it outweigh the advantages of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Serving Size 100g of dark muscovado = 348 calories; 95g total carbohydrates; 710 mg potassium; 12.5 mg phosphorus; 86.6 mg sodium; 2.03 mg Iron
Taste & Appearance
Muscovado has the same sweetness as table sugar (1 teaspoon table sugar = 1 teaspoon of muscovado) and a strong lingering molasses flavor, with chocolate and tropical fruit overtones.
Crystals are slightly coarser than regular brown sugars. The cane molasses makes them moist, sticky, and very dark brown.
As the image below shows, muscovado always comes with small firm dark clumps of syrup-coated sugar crystals.
Muscovado is an artisan brown sugar. As a result, different batches of muscovado may have slight differences in color and flavor as I show you in the image below.
Certifications & Special Diets
Non-GMO Project Verified
Fair Trade Certified
Kosher Certified (Note: all sugars are considered Kosher)
Suitable for vegetarians, vegans, and Halal
One cup of India Tree dark muscovado (firmly packed) = 227g = 8oz
One unpacked cup of dark muscovado weighs about 2 ounces less than a packed cup.
Use in recipes calling for dark brown sugar.
It can be used as a substitute for table sugar in recipes; use an equal amount of firmly packed measure of muscovado and slightly reduce liquid content by one to two tablespoons.
Store tightly closed in a cool, dry place indefinitely. If it hardens, place muscovado in a bowl, cover with a wet cloth and leave overnight. If it cakes, add a slice of apple or lettuce leaf to the pail, till it absorbs the moisture back.
To find out the best way to prevent muscovado from becoming hard rock, read this.
The strong, lingering molasses flavor of dark muscovado goes well with:
Rich flavors such as ginger, coffee, chocolate
Beverages, baked goods, and savory dishes
Vanilla, butterscotch, and cinnamon
In coffee, on hot cereals, and over French toast
Use to flavor ice cream, hot chocolate, granola bars, and cinnamon rolls
Adds depth to rib rubs, barbecue sauces, beef stews, and hot chili.
Cookbooks Using Muscovado
India Tree Dark Muscovado Sugar is from Mauritius Island, located in the Indian Ocean. Forty percent of its 700 square miles are planted with cane. Mauritius sugar is certified Fair Trade and is cultivated on a combination of large family-owned plantations and small farms.
India Tree sources their muscovado sugar from two sugar mills ---- Belle Vue Mill in the north and Deep River Beau Champ on the east coast. According to India Tree company, both mills are highly mechanized and every part of the cane plant is put to good use. Nothing is wasted.
The bagasse (fiber left after cane juice is extracted) is burned for fuel. The scum from the purifying of the sugar is used as fertilizer. The vapor produced in the evaporation process generates the energy needed to process the sugar, and the excess is sold to the national grid, accounting for almost half of the island's energy needs.
The refining process is described as follows:
Cane is harvested from September through December. Then the rains arrive, and the cyclone season begins. During harvest, the narrow roads are clogged with trucks, large and small, full of cut cane, on their way to the mill.
The cane is cut into small pieces and crushed to extract the juice. Impurities (which are residues naturally present in the plant and soil) are removed from the juice by adding lime or calcium. Lime and calcium bond with phosphate and other undesirable elements to form a scum that is removed by a skimming process.
The clarified syrup is heated in an evaporator. As the juice concentrates, sugar crystals form. A series of evaporators contain sugar at a different stage of refinement. The first sugar to be produced in the evaporation process is demerara. The second is light muscovado, and the last is dark muscovado. The dark sugars contain the most molasses.
Once the sugar has reached the desired stage, dark muscovado, light muscovado, and demerara are centrifuged to separate the crystals. The moist brown sugars go to a conditioning tower, where they are blasted with air to dry it out.
India Tree Dark Muscovado is sold in a one-pound chef pack and a 2.8-pound canister. Visit India Tree Amazon Store here.
We should choose muscovado sugars for their unique molasses flavor, their culinary role, or our pleasure. Keep in mind that, chemically speaking, unrefined sugars such as muscovado are not much different than table sugar.
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