ENTRY 179: Sweetjuice
There is little room to grow sugarcane in space, nor many hives for honeybees. With priority given over to more important foodstuffs, sweetener production is often a local affair, each habitat or community finding their own way to satisfy their sweet tooth. Scumbarges and other stations where room and economy are tight simply process various food starches with cultured enzymes, deriving a colorless sticky-sweet gel known sugarin; several O’Niel cylinders have enough crop space to make a minor industry of sugarin production, and export the excess. On many ships and domes with hydroponics gardens, small batches of sugar cane, sugar beet, or stevia are grown, harvested, and processed, often by hand to render a variety of brown and white sugars for local use. In the aerostats of Venus various insects are cultivated; more often those that produce sweet nectar products like sugarbag, since honeybees are rare. Mars is the greatest producer of cane and beat sugar in the solar system, with an average production approaching ten tons, though some of it is siphoned off to the production of molasses, rum, and other culinary products, and Martian rock candy is a common treat marked for tourists, available in all the spaceports.
For the majority of transhumanity, raw or refined sugar remains unavailable, and industrious humans have turned instead to sweetjuice. Local products, often made by individuals or small groups who pool their resources and expertise, sweetjuice is a liquid sweetener derived from whatever is available—semi-sweet berries and tree saps are preferred, such as the Sugar Pines and Sugar Maple cultivated on Titan, or the juniper and raspberry bushes on Luna—which are boiled to condense the liquid, and sometimes filtered or further processed to remove adulterants, toxic elements, or native flavor. The resulting sweetjuice is a sweet or semi-sweet liquid, made available in small packets as a condiment (in microgravity) or dolloped out with a spoon. Quality is usually judged by the clarity of the sweetjuice as much as the taste, with clearer sweetjuice more highly prized and likely to be sweeter, with fewer contaminants. Different styles and flavors of sweetjuice have considerably affected many local forms of cooking, with distinct flavors from different habitats sparking a small high-end trade in quality sweetjuice.
- A local entrepreneur on the player character’s habitat is looking to bring in sixty kilos of “brown crystal”—unrefined sugarcake straight from Elysium. Mixed with the local water, he’ll claim it as sweetjuice and sell it on to passing ships as a local delicacy. However, he’s concerned that the local artisan sweetjuice crafters on the habitat will jump him for devaluing their product, and offers to bring the PCs on board as partners…provided they take care of security, and kick in on the cost of the initial Martian sugar.
- Someone has been going around wrecking sweetjuice stills, and stealing the product. Local ordinances against sugar (it’s bad for your teeth!) mean that the residents cannot complain, but the sudden loss of real sweetener in the habitat has everyone in a grumpy mood…except for the local crafter of synthetic sweeteners, who has noted a sudden rise in custom. Could they be the culprit? Or is there a sugar addict loose on the station, desperate for their next fix?