The beet is driven to the factory, and washed thoroughly in lots of water where all the stones and dirt are removed. The stones cleared get sold to garden centres as aggregate, whilst all the dirt gets used and sold back to farmers as topsoil. They are then sliced into thin sticks called ‘cossettes’. These then go into diffusion tanks in order to create the sugar. The first stage of this process is to extract the raw juice from the pulp; the fibrous pulp then gets dried out and turned into animal feed, and the juice enters the next stage, which is purification.
This process removes any last impurities from the juice. Minerals are stirred through the liquid, and then fuse together and are precipitated out. The leftover liquid is then called thin juice, and it’s from this liquid that the evaporation process can begin, leaving behind ‘thick juice’, whilst the residue mineral substance is sold as fertiliser. Next, crystallisation. This is where the juice is ‘seeded’ with minuscule particles of sugar in order to encourage the liquid to crystallise. The end result is a syrupy liquid with sugar particles suspended in it: massecuite. Once the two are separated via centrifuges, the sugar goes into huge dry storage containers ready to be packaged up.
Interestingly, the sugar is naturally white – brown sugar can be created by coating it with molasses, post-crystallisation. Beet molasses have a bitter taste, whereas cane molasses are sweet and sticky, so even beet sugar when brown has been coated with cane molasses.