By Casey Neill
Lez Hirsch twirls half-metre lengths of sugarcane from hand to hand like a circus performer or busker before theatrically pushing the cane into a custom-made machine that extracts its juice.
He serves the liquid hot and cold at Saccha Sugar Cane Juice at Dandenong Market.
“Sugarcane is indigenous to tropical South East Asia but it is grown on six continents,” he said.
“Sugarcane was brought to Australia around 1790 on the ships of the First Fleet.
“Thirty years later sugarcane was commercially grown in northern Australia.”
Lez said it was a natural energy drink, unrefined and packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
Lez Hirsch adds his flourish to sugar cane juicing.
He said the beverage was also low on the glycaemic index, releasing energy slowly.
“I love the taste and health benefits and wanted to share it with people,” he said.
“Markets and festivals were a good way to reach our public.
“Due to popular demand we decided to settle permanently at Dandenong Market.”
Lez said the juice was becoming more and more popular among the health-focused and sports-minded for its rehydrating properties “and for its great taste for the open-minded”.
He crushes Australian-grown sugar cane on the spot.
“We try to find the best sugar cane for consumption,” he said.
He uses a machine he built himself.
“Juice comes out the front, mulch out the back,” he said.
The pulp is used as mulch or animal feed.
He adds flavours to the juice, from lemon and lime to ginger, strawberries and pineapple.
Lez grows his own cumquats, lemons and limes and buys other produce from the market.
The result is a refreshing cold beverage that’s sweet but not sickly, or a hot drink that warms and soothes.