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The origin of Cachaça and Sugarcane

Cachaça and its origin represents the culture and history of Brazil. More than five hundred years of history and immigration, the country absorbed characteristics of other cultures and created special things ever since.

The people of New Guinea were probably the first to domesticate sugarcane, sometime around 8,000 BC. After domestication, its cultivation spread rapidly to Southeast Asia and southern China. India, where the process of refining cane juice into granulated crystals was developed.

According to Luis da Câmara Cascudo in his book Cachaca Prelude the origin of Cachaça is linked to the origin of the sugarcane plantation in the country. In 1530, Portugal's King João III decided to send an expedition to South American`s colony and selected Martim Afonso de Sousa, a Portuguese who commanded the first colonising expedition to Brazil (1530–33). Sousa founded the first two permanent Portuguese settlements in Brazil in 1532. One was São Vicente, near the present port of Santos, and the other was Piratininga, now São Paulo. He also established a sugar mill near the coast at São Vicente, with sugarcane brought from the Portuguese Cape Verde islands. According to the historian , Cachaça appears from that period becoming very popular year after year.

Try Bartolomeu here.

But the history of sugar cane did not begin when it arrived in Brazil. When it comes to history we have to analyse the set of correlated facts. That is why we understand that the history of Cachaça did not begin when sugar cane arrived in Brazil but was guided by all previous events before.

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Many years ago, spices were always been considered to be the gold of the Indies. Cinnamon, ginger, cloves, pepper and turmeric had long been products which were difficult to obtain in Europe. Only the markets of Venice and Genoa then scattered these spices all over Europe, expensive and without guaranteed arrival. In 1453, with the capture of the city of Constantinople by the Ottomans, the trade of Venice and Genoa reduced. This was the time to discover a new road to India. In this attempt to discover the route to Indian, they noticed a quality climate of the countries near the equator.

Spanish and Portuguese exploration and conquest in the fifteenth century carried sugar south-west of Iberia. Henry the Navigator introduced cane to Madeira in 1425, while the Spanish, having eventually subdued the Canary Islands, introduced sugar cane to them.

The European discovery and colonisation of Madeira and the Canary Islands in would prove fateful precedents for the new world, because the plantation system and colonial governments instituted on these islands became models for the great sugar plantations in the new world. Christopher Columbus, son-in-law of a major sugar producer on Madeira Island, introduced cane planting in America on his second voyage to the mainland, where today he is the Dominican Republic. When the Spanish discovered the gold and silver of the Azetca and Inca civilisations in the early 16th century, sugar cane cultivation and sugar production were forgotten.

A point that deserves full attention years ago was the beginning of navigation and the proliferation of sugar cane throughout the world. An important name in this context was Bartolomeu Dias. A Portuguese explorer and he sailed around the southernmost tip of Africa in 1488, reaching the Indian Ocean from the Atlantic. By the way, the first European known to have done so.

Statue of Bartolomeu Dias at the High Commission of South Africa in London

The discovery of the passage around southern Africa was significant because, for the first time, Europeans realised they could trade directly with India and the other parts of Asia, bypassing the overland route through the Middle East, with its expensive middlemen. Bartolomeu originally discovered Cape of Good Hope because it represented the opening of a route to the east and the unprecedented evolution of trade. The discovery brought by the exploration of Bartolomeu culminated in the possibility of reaching India by the sea via Africa for the first time and also a new attempt to reach just crossing the Atlantic Ocean This fact represented the inference point of long shipping development and supply of sugarcane throughout the world.

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