Artisanal Muscovado Sugar

Ark of taste
Back to the archive >
Artisanal Muscovado Sugar

The earliest known production of Muscovado began in Northern India, after the introduction of sugarcane by Austronesian traders from Southeast Asian Island at around 1000BCE. Sugar production was an important trade during the British Empire: sugar cane was produced among the colonies in the West Indies, India, Mauritius and other territories including Cuba, Java and the Philippines.

Sugarcane farming in the Philippines was already extensive prior to Spanish colonization particularly in the Visayas. For hundreds of years, Philippines have been producing unrefined dark brown sugar or Muscovado. This is a specialty sugar, unrefined and characterized by a deep brown color, soft sticky texture, and rich molasses flavor. Too often confused with brown sugar but is much more interesting than the average sweetener. Since the molasses contains vitamins and minerals, the "crude" process by which muscovado is produced ensures its higher nutritive value compared to refined sugar.

The artisanal process of making muscovado is natural and doesn’t require many steps: the heirloom sugarcane juice is filtered to remove any impurities. Basically, the juice of the heirloom sugarcane has to evaporate until crystallization occurs. The viscous suspension of crystals and mother liquor (molasses) is called massecuite. The product obtained has a slightly coarse and feels sticky to the touch with a rich toffee- like flavor. Compared to other sugar it has a bit nutty flavor. The product could vary from light to a very dark brown color.

Muscovado sugar is added to coffee, tea or hot chocolate because its well blending taste. It is also an excellent ingredient form making local sweets and specialty delicacies. Some popular uses in delicacies such as, butung-butung, bananacue, suman, kalamay hati, dulsi-dulsi, palutaw, estofado, minatamis na saging, and a lot more.

In the past, muscovado was one of the prominent export commodities from 19th century until the late 1970s. Most producers of muscovado are small farmers, who produce muscovado sugar manually, mainly by hands. From the bamboo-fed furnace below the mill, to the stirring of the cane juice. Even the pouring and drying stage are manual. It is a traditional process passed down through generations that can be found in Kabankalan Negros Occidental and Luau-an, Antique Province, Western Visayas. The production of muscovado made from heirloom sugarcane has experienced a long period of decline as large mills took over the sugar production, preferring the hybrid high yielding sugarcane and refining sugar and not the traditional methods practiced by small farmers with small mills. However, in the recent years an increased consumer interest in healthy and organic foods has revived interest in muscovado, creating a new market for small mills.

Back to the archive >



Western Visayas (Region VI)

Production area:Kabankalan, Negros Occidental and Luau-an, Antique Province

Other info


Cakes, pastries and sweets

Nominated by:Georie Pitong - Suzanne Alexandra S. Veloso