On hot and sticky days in countries as far flung as Brazil, Jamaica and Vietnam, bright roadside carts slung with long poles of sugarcane are a common sight. These are pressed between iron rollers to extract their chartreuse juice or sold whole for locals to chew on.
Despite sugarcane’s abundance – it is one of the world’s most widely cultivated crops – cane water oxidises quickly so doesn’t travel well. But tasty drinks will always find a way to market and entrepreneurs in the West have begun to set up cane-juicing operations to stimulate demand.
Suppliers such as Sugarcane Island in Brooklyn, Raw Cane in Los Angeles and the Cane Press in London are well supported by diaspora communities wanting a taste of home. But health-food junkies, who are always on the lookout for the next cold-pressed juice, are getting in on the action. Despite the first part of its name, sugarcane water (which has no refined sugar), has health benefits: rich in iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium, it helps fight colds and fevers.
Mainly, though, it tastes deliciously refreshing. Drunk pure, it feels like stretching out on a sun lounger. Add a tot of rum and some macerated mint, and you have a dangerously smooth mojito. But the drink truly comes alive when ginger and lime are brought into the equation. They undercut any threat of sickly sweetness and crackle into the liquid equivalent of a samba.