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Sugarcane juice

The consumption of sugarcane juice is associated to the sugarcane exploitation and to the cachaça production process, which was improved since the discovery of the sugarcane wine, known as sour garapa, soon after sugarcane was brought to Brazil in the 16th century.

Sugarcane juice

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Last update: 15/02/2023

By: Maria do Carmo Gomes de Andrade - Librarian of the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation - Specialist in Librarianship

Sugarcane juice, or garapa, is a drink extracted from sugarcane via a relatively simple milling process, especially after the electric-milling machine. Firstly, to eliminate dirt, the husk of the cane is scraped, then the canes are pressed or squeezed, and finally the juice falls into a jar ready to be consumed. For this reason, in the Northeast region of Brazil, there is a popular saying: “Na hora, feito caldo de cana” (“As fast as milling sugarcane”), referring to the speed with which something was accomplished.

The consumption of sugarcane juice is associated to the sugarcane exploitation and to the cachaça production process, which was improved since the discovery of the sugarcane wine, known as sour garapa, soon after sugarcane was brought to Brazil in the 16th century. Enslaved Africans were the first to drink the beverage, in rapadura pots as a left over, only fermented. The slaves were also those who started to distill the mixture, then called cachaça. Notably, sugarcane juice is the raw material for manufacturing sugar, ethanol, and cachaça in the sugar mills. The industrial residue of distillation for producing alcohol and cachaça results in molasses or “mel de furo.”

Sugarcane juice has great nutritional value. Nowadays, some people consider this juice a biofuel for the human organism. Scientific research has already been developed to prove the effectiveness of the diet with sugarcane juice in physical performance and in the recovery of athletes’ muscle mass. Researchers at UNICAMP are planning to transform sugarcane juice into a water-soluble powder.

Sugarcane juice is basically composed of water and sucrose and conserves all nutrients of sugarcane: minerals, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, chlorine, and B and C vitamins. The plant also contains glucose, fructose, proteins, starch, waxes, fatty acids, dyes, phenolic acids, and flavonoids. Consuming 250 ml of sugarcane is equivalent to intaking 40 mg of phenolics, making it an important source of these antioxidant compounds in a diet. However, the protein content of sugarcane juice is extremely low, making it an unbalanced food. There are several colors of sugarcane: purple, white, yellow, green, striped, or red; as well as several types: canina, rainha, tiririca, ubá cristalina, caiana, and others. The caiana cane is the most used for extracting the juice.

Sugarcane juice is highly appreciated in Brazil, especially in the Zona da Mata region, where sugarcane cultivation has always predominated, not only for the taste, but also for the great energetic value. Countryside inhabitants commonly drink sugarcane juice eating sweetbread, a tasty and cheap snack; some also add a few drops of lime. There are those who enjoy the juice even after the fermentation process has begun, when it acquires a flavor similar to aluá—a fermented drink typical of Northeastern Brazil festas juninas (June festival), which is similar to the quentão in Southeastern Brazil.

With the expansion of sugarcane juice consumption, several types and models of mills have emerged, although all models are still in use, from the most rudimentary to the most modern ones. After all, the milling technique is basically the same: the cane enters through one side and the juice comes out the other. These grinders or contraptions are present not only in the countryside and rural areas, but also in capital cities. The sugarcane juice has long “travel abroad,” that is, is consumed worldwide.

Sugarcane juice is sold in carts, stalls, public markets, food trailers, and snack bars. The possibilities for serving the juice have also expanded. There is a sugarcane juice called “energy juice,” or “jacaré,” a mix of sugarcane juice, cabbage, and lime. There are other combinations, such as drinking it with ginger. Nowadays, garapa can be served with pastel [thin-crust pies] and even strudel.

According to Mario Souto Maior, the inhabitants of the countryside and rural areas, who generally have difficulties in accessing scientific medicine, try to develop it empirically, that is, using their own experiences to take care of illnesses. Therefore, sugarcane juice is used in the treatment of some illnesses, which popular wisdom has indicated, or counter indicated. Among others, we list the following illnesses:

1. POSPARTUM (period after childbirth, when the woman follows certain cares, avoiding physical strain).
During this period, sugar cane juice can lead to hemorrhages. However, after the postpartum, the juice helps in the production of breast milk.

Before going to bed, the child should not drink sugarcane juice, because they will create the practice of urinating in bed.

People with hemorrhoids should not drink sugarcane juice as it can aggravate the situation.

Sugarcane juice, consumed in the morning and before bathing, cleans the blood of sores, scabies, and boils.

In a cut it is recommended to use a wet wool with sugarcane juice, which acts as a hemostatic and scarring agent.

In the Sertão, when horses go for a long walk, the water they would take after eating feed (corn) is substituted by sugarcane juice. This makes them stronger to endure the journey.

When the stomach is upset, sugarcane juice is used to cause belching.



Recife, August 30, 2011.

sources consulted

CALDO de Cana (imagem neste texto). Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 18 out. 2011.

CRUZ, G. L. Cana-de-açúcar Saccharum Officinarum, Lineu Família das Gramíneas. In: ______. Livro verde das plantas medicinais e industriais do Brasil. Belo Horizonte: [s. n.], 1965. v. 2,  p. 216-220.

PODEROSO, saudável e natural. Disponível em:  <>. Acesso em: 31 ago. 2011.

SOUTO MAIOR, Mário. Gostosuras populares da cana e do açúcar. Brasil Açucareiro, Rio de Janeiro, ano 41, v. 82, n. 2, p. 32-34, ago. 1973. Publicado também em: Comes e bebes do Nordeste. 3. ed. Recife: Fundaj, Ed. Massangana, 1985. p. 46.

how to quote this text

ANDRADE, Maria do Carmo. Sugarcane juice. In: Pesquisa Escolar. Recife: Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, 2011. Available from: Access on: month day year. (ex.: Aug. 9, 2020.)