One lump or two? Though many a good coffee connoisseur takes their brew strong and black, adding a bit of something sweet is a practice enjoyed by many. What exactly is the difference between white and brown sugar, and what the heck is "turbinado" sugar?
White sugar is the most common sweetener used in tea or coffee. You can get white sugar in regular granulated form, or finer ground as icing sugar or confectioner's sugar. Powdered sugar isn't typically used for simple beverage sweetening. White sugar is processed from sugar cane to have the molasses removed, and then it's filtered, crystalized and dried.
Brown sugar is my personal favorite. I love the heavier flavour in my coffee. It's made by adding the molasses back to regular white sugar, which makes it much moister and more prone to clumping than white sugar. I have heard that a piece of white bread in the container will keep your brown sugar soft.
Raw sugar is very similar to brown sugar, except this is sugar that hasn't been processed into white. So it has its natural molasses content intact. It's lighter than brown sugar in flavour, but the texture is more coarse (almost like kosher salt).
Another name for raw sugar, mentioned above. Other names for raw sugar are Muscovado and Demerara sugar. These are not literally identical, but they are the products produced at different stages of sugar processing. The differences between them are slight.
Of course, honey isn't a kind of sugar, but it's a popular sweet touch nonetheless. Produced by bees, it's a very natural form of sweetener that requires next to no processing before use. Liquid honey will crystalize over time, but whipped honey will remain soft (like butter) indefinately.
I thought I'd add this less common sweet selection that is gaining acceptance. It's actually an herbal product that is far sweeter than sugar. The botanical name is Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni. Stevia sweeteners can be found in many health food stores, or even grown in your own garden. More on stevia.
Some people choose one form of sugar over another for various health or nutrition reasons. Any added benefit from the extra molasses in either brown or raw sugar is pretty negligible, considering the small amounts added to your drinks.