At one end of the spectrum is white table sugar, which has been cleaned, refined and standardized as far as possible. At the other end of that same spectrum is rapadura, a traditional ingredient in Brazil's northeast, which is as close to sugar cane, the origin of Brazilian sugar, as possible. It's everything white table sugar is not - dark colored, dense, sticky and strongly flavored. It's nibbled whole as a simple pick-me-up or dessert, it's grated to sprinkle on fancy puddings and tortes, and it's melted to add sweetness and complexity to sauces sweet and savory. (For a delicious chicken recipe with a sauce containing rapadura and cachaça, click here)
Rapadura is basically nothing more than unrefined sugar cane juice which has been boiled and evaporated into a solid state. It is almost pure sucrose or fructose. It is an ancient product, and is usually artesanally made, even today. Similar primitive solid sugar products are well-loved in many parts of the world - panela in Colombia, piloncillo in Mexico and jaggery in India. Because these sugars are important in a number of national and regional cuisines, they are not difficult to obtain in ethnic food markets in North America - ask for them by regional name. I have found piloncillo in Latin American markets in a number of North American cities, and jaggery in Indian markets.