hist-brewing: Re: sugar: cane vs. beet

Baden,Doug baden at oclc.org
Mon Jan 11 08:07:08 PST 1999

When in doubt, ask!  
>From Mistress Amarantha:

by the way, beet sugar was first refined in the LATE 17th century
(experimentally), but the first european beet sugar REFINERY was set up
in france in 1801, so guess what? we're talking about cane sugar.

sugar cane was first mentioned in the ramayana in india c. 1200 b.c.e. it
was refined into a syrup, which was then sometimes dessicated by the
egyptians and phoenicians, who used it in medicine.the persians, who
maintained a monopoly in early classical times, of the trade and
manufacture, were eventually overrun by darius and the assyrians, who
subsequently spread sugar throughout the persian gulf and middle east.
the classical greeks and romans were aware of sugar, at least in the
syrup form, and it's medicinal uses were noted by everyone from pliny to

varro (c. 115 b.c.e.) describes the plant in his "de re rustica",
including a description of it's manufacture.

SOME sugar was available in europe proper during the dark ages, although
it's uses were mainly medicinal and it's price was exorbitant, to say the
least.in addition to it's importation of silks and spices, venice was
well known as the point of entry for sugar into europe, the first sugar
warehouse there being founded in the year 966 c.e. after the arabs
established the first industrial sugar refinery in the world on the
island of crete at a place called candia, and referred to it's product as
"qandi", the world was introduced to the word "candy". yup, it's that

sugar canes were introduced to the island of cyprus at the end of the
thirteenth century by crusaders fleeing the fall of acre. sugar was
gradually introduced into western europe throughout the 12th and 13th
centuries, as can be told by the gradual introduction of tariffs on it's
trade and importation. by the way, in the year 1273, the countess of
savoie purchased one pound of sugar for the sum of 2 gold sous and five
silver deniers. keep in mind that at that period in france the average
yearly income for an entire knightly household was estimated to be one
gold sous, two silver deniers, and you'll have an idea of the expense
involved and therefore the unlikelyhood of sugar being used by any but
the richest, and in only the stingiest amounts. for those who contend
that sugar was used in quantity in the middle ages, and insist on
redacting recipes thus and cooking feasts accordingly, i say nuts and
double-nuts! maybe if you were the pope, but only if you were one of the
well-connected popes!!

as time went by in the s.c.a. period, the price DID go down some, but,
for example in 1515, in her book "heptameron", queen marguerite of
navarre mentions that the price of a loaf of sugar the size of a little
finger was sufficient to pay for the entire price of a lavish banquet
that was served to a lawyer and his friend in the town of alencon.

by the mid-fifteenth century enough sugar was being grown and refined in
the territories owned by prince henry the navigator in the mediteranean
islands that he figured that it was more profitable to export sugar cane
from there than to import it from the levant. it was not until the
competing sugar industries of the new world and the middle east came into
being in the late (1572) sixteenth c. that ortelius was able to state, in
his "theatrum orbis terrarum" (his famed geography of the world), that
"instead of being obtainable only in the shops of apothecaries, who kept
it for the sick, as before, sugar is now eaten for appetite alone". thus,
while eaten quite frequently in elizabethan times by the rich, and the
near-rich, it was not widely used until that time in western and northern
europe (and only SLIGHTLY before that in southern europe) .

hope that helps.

who just CAN'T seem to answer anything in fifty words or less.

Doug Baden    My opinions are my own. 
When I see "And it is obvious that" I know that
I have many hours of work to see the obvious...

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