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5 facts about sugar

Here at UKVending we love a sweet treat every so often. So, we decided to trawl through the history and science books to discover some fascinating facts about sugar.  

1. SUGAR WAS ONCE CONSIDERED A SPICE, NOT A SWEETENER. 

When sugar was first introduced to England in the twelfth century, it was grouped with other tropical spices like ginger, cinnamon, and saffron, and used by the very wealthy to season savoury dishes.

2. IT WAS USED AS A MEDICINE FOR CENTURIES. 

The use of sugar as a medicine dates back at least as far as ninth century Iraq, where it was combined with fruits and spices to make medicinal syrups, powders, and infusions. Centuries later, British doctors prescribed sugar to cure a range of diseases—one 18th century physician even suggested blowing sugar powder into the eyes to cure eye ailments and irritations

3. EUROPEAN ROYALTY WOULD MAKE GIANT SUGAR SCULPTURES CALLED ‘SUBTLETIES.’ 

Similar in consistency to marzipan, ‘subtleties’ were sculpted into different shapes and wheeled out at royal feasts starting in the 13th century. Though they were visually impressive, they weren’t particularly tasty—the sugar was mixed with a range of nuts, pastes, and gums in order to make it more malleable, giving it a slightly clay-like consistency.

4. IN EUROPE, IT STARTED AS A LUXURY …

Initially, sugar was so rare and expensive only royalty could afford it—and in very small quantities at that. In the 13th century, for example, British monarch Henry III once tried to order three pounds of sugar, but expressed doubts that so much sugar could even be found in England.

5. … BUT BY THE 19TH CENTURY, HAD BECOME A STAPLE OF THE WORKING-CLASS DIET.

By 1850, working class consumption of sugar had eclipsed that of the wealthier classes. As the price of sugar dropped, the working classes began using it in a range of baked goods, porridges, and “hasty puddings”—so-called because they could be prepared quickly and with ease. Perhaps most importantly, the working classes began adding sugar to tea—a tradition which, of course, persists to this day.

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