I don’t deny that I have a sweet tooth, and after talking about the differences between demerara sugar, muscovado sugar and turbinado sugars, I couldn’t resist mentioning one more interesting type of natural sugar: sugar crystals. Sugar is crystalline in its normal state, but “sugar crystals” is used as a name to describe unusually large crystals of sugar. The crystals are formed just the way that rock sugar candies are, essentially letting small clusters of crystals come together into larger groups. They are made with unrefined sugar and have a brown color from the natural molasses of the cane. They also have a subtle molasses-like flavor to them that sets them apart from straight white sugar. The large crystals dissolve very slowly, even in hot liquids, but are pretty popular as an addition to coffee and tea because of the way they add flavor. They can be used to top off baked goods, as well, and will add a fair amount of crunch to a quick bread or coffee cake. The crystals are too large to be substituted into a recipe for regular sugar, although they could be treated in the same way as an add-in like chocolate chips, and stirred into the batter for texture and flavor.
You can find these crystals in some natural foods stores and occasionally in a well-stocked coffee shop, but you can also order them online. Adagio Teas sells the crystals in several different package sizes if you only want to try a little bit at a time (presumably with tea).