Of the myriad foods Okinawa calls its own, Okinawan black sugar (known in Japanese as “kokuto”) is among the most famous from the region. Grown across the island making up this prefecture, Okinawan prefecture has a unique taste and also carries health benefits contributing to the long lifespan of Okinawans.
One company based in Okinawa has created eight varieties of black sugar mirroring the eight major islands of the area.
A Rich Taste...And History
Okinawa black sugar has been cultivated since the 17th century, and over the years has become one of the biggest items to emerge from the island chain. The taste — whether on its own, transformed into a sweet, or used as a sweetener for a drink — is memorable enough, featuring a rich sweetness other sugar lacks. Yet what really makes it special are the health benefits that come with it.
Compared to white sugar, Okinawa black sugar features a lower glycemic index number, and it also comes loaded with way more nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
How It’s Made
The process of making Okinawa black sugar is quite unique, and one brand, Okinawa Kokuto, offered us some insight into its creation. The process starts with sugar cane, found in a field (see the picture above). That is harvested, and then the juice from the sugarcane is boiled until it transforms into a black syrup.
After that, it is left out to harden. With Kokuto in particular, they use the left over pomace to create fuel, resulting in a process that is good for the environment. You can see just how they turn sugar cane into fuel in the figure below.
Eight Is Never Enough
Kokuto have put out a special line of Okinawan black sugar celebrating the differences found in the sweet itself across the islands. They have produced eight different varieties of sugar from the eight major islands of Okinawa, in taste ranging from more bitter to sweeter, to textural differences like melt-in-your-mouth and firmer.
You can see a breakdown of the various sugars below, and you can enjoy them in our Tabi Box for February.
Left: Kohama Island (Manta Ray)
This Black Sugar has a nice crispy texture that is soft with a refreshing aftertaste! Recommended for beginners.
Right: Hateruma Island (Southern Cross)
This Black Sugar has a crispy and chewy texture that is hard.
Left: Iriomote Island (Iriomote Cat)
This Black Sugar is soft, rich, and sweet. It'll melt in your mouth to feel like chocolate.
Right: Yonagumi Island (Yonagumi Horse)
This Black Sugar is salty because it contains minerals from the sea and mountains
Left: Tarama Island (Yashima Dance)
This Black Sugar is known as the best and its has been used for the longest time.
Right: Iheya Island (Kamon Grouper)
This Black Sugar has firm texture and a bitter taste that comes after the sweetness.
Left: Ie Island (Easter Lily)
This Black Sugar is mild in sweetness and will melt in your mouth because if its softness.
Right: Aguni Island (Cycad)
This Black Sugar is a bit bitter but has a well balanced sweetness and saltiness ratio.
A Classic Sweet
Okinawan black sugar is one of the defining treats from the island, and there are many different versions of it found within the prefecture itself.
Now that you know more about the 8 Black Sugar from the Okinawa Islands it is your turn to actually taste it! Don't miss out on this fantastic Okinawan sweets with this month 'Tabi Box' Okinawa Island Flavor.
*Okinawa 8 Island Black Sugar in 'Tabi Box' will contain ONLY 2 Black Sugar packs that are randomly picked.
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