A Guide to Using German Rock Sugar

If you’ve ever heard of German rock sugar, then you probably know that it’s an all natural form of sugar. It goes by many names, including rock candy, rock sugar, and pure sugar crystals. The latter hits the nail on the head as far as description goes! German rock sugar is basically sugar in its pure form after the juices of the cane have evaporated away. Many people believe this form of sugar, being more natural than other sources, is better for one’s health than artificial sweeteners. If you’re wondering the same thing, then keep reading to learn what this sugar has to offer and also to find an easy to follow recipe for making homemade rock sugar.

What is German Rock Sugar, Exactly?

What some of us know as a “German” hard-as-rock variety of sugar is actually found all over the world and is especially popular in the Middle East and China where it is used to sweeten hot beverages, such as tea. German rock sugar gets its name from the way in which it is created—a process that was developed in Germany. The process involves delicately heating a mixture of sugar and water. The ratio is usually around one part water to two parts sugar. A device such as a stick or piece of string may be fed into the liquid once it has been removed from the heating source. As the sugar and water mixture cools and settles over a period of about a week, large clumps of sugar, also known as crystallized sugar, start to develop. If a stick or string has been inserted then the sugar will begin to grow around the device and encourage other sugar crystals to form around this area which ultimately makes the sugar easier to handle. This is a common technique for “rock candy.”

Traditionally, the type of sugar used to make crystallized (rock) sugar was produced by sugar beets, which is a very popular vegetable in Germany. True rock sugar produced by sugar from the sugar beet is more likely to have a rich brown color, whereas rock sugar that is created using granulated sugar is more likely to produce white, off-white, or yellow colored crystallized sugar.

Is Rock Sugar Healthier than Granulated Sugar?

That’s a hard question to answer without going into a bit more detail. Going off of the straight-up sugar content of equal amounts of granulated versus rock sugar; rock sugar is not healthier than regular granulated sugar. The argument that sways many people into believing that German rock sugar is a healthier alternative to everyday table sugar is that it is “raw” and unprocessed sugar. There is also the consideration that if it is the true German derivative made from sugar beets, which is very rich in antioxidants, then the lure of adding extra antioxidants to a person’s diet may also have some weight in making a choice between rock and granulated sugar. There is yet another thing to consider which could also have some bearing on which type of sugar is healthier, and that is by going off of how much of each sugar is needed to achieve one’s desired level of sweetness. Most people find that they don’t need to use as much rock sugar compared to granulated sugar. If this is the same for you, then you may be able to get by with using less sugar and, possibly, taking in less calories. This all depends on how much rock sugar you use, of course. It is estimated that there are about 25 calories in a modest teaspoon of rock sugar whereas there are about 16 calories in a standard teaspoon of granulated sugar. As you can see, there are more calories in a full teaspoon of rock sugar; however many people find that this amount of rock sugar tends to be too sweet for a regular cup of tea.

The Benefits of German Rock Sugar

If you can get your hands on genuine German-variety rock sugar then there is the added benefit of being high in antioxidants that you otherwise wouldn’t get. Pair that off with the antioxidants that can be found in most types of tea and you’ve got yourself a cup of health-brew! As the main use for this type of sugar is to sweeten tea of all flavors and varieties, one of the most beloved—and to some, the most important—characteristic of rock sugar is that it sweetens without concealing the intricate flavors of the tea. Other types of sugar slightly alter the basic flavors of tea whereas rock sugar is said to have a “pure sweetness.” This may not be a concern for the occasional tea drinker, but for those who understand and can taste the difference between tea varieties, rock sugar can make a world of difference. Rock sugar is also a no-mess option for those of us who often find ourselves scooping sugar granules from the countertops after preparing a drink.

How to Make Your Own Rock Sugar

Making your own rock sugar is as easy as can be, although it does take time! To make this concoction, you will need one third of a cup of water, two-thirds of a cup of white granulated sugar (or brown sugar if you prefer a rich, molasses taste and brown colored sugar), a double-boiler, a candy thermometer, wooden stirring sticks, and a foil disposable pan to hold the mixture as it crystallizes. First you need to prepare the pan. Pierce the sides of the container with the stirring sticks until they are secure. These sticks are what the sugar will crystallize around.  Pour the sugar and water in the top part of the double boiler and add water to the bottom portion. Bring the mixture up to boil and keep a careful gauge on the temperature. Once it reaches about 250 degrees Fahrenheit remove it from the heat and pour it into your prepared pan. Now you simply need to secure a piece of aluminum foil over the container and leave it to sit on a counter for about a week.