7 Annotations

David Quidnunc  •  Link

History of Sugar -- short essay

"The Bee, the Reed, the Root"
by Ray Burke

(about honey, sugarcane, sugar beets)

Only this paragraph is specifically about sugar in the 17th century:

"By the year 1600, sugar production in the subtropical and tropical Americas had become the world's largest and most lucrative industry. The 'sugar islands' of the West Indies brought great wealth to England and France. Queen Elizabeth displayed her wealth by putting a sugar bowl on her table and using sugar as an everyday food and seasoning. Great Britain took a commanding position in the sugar trade, and consumption of tea in the English diet increased tremendously with the use of sugar."

Sugarcane wasn't cultivated in Barbados until 1700. Sugar wasn't successfully extracted from beets until about 1800 in Germany.

Warren Keith Wright  •  Link

In Pepys's day, refined sugar was molded into firm cone-shaped masses called sugar loaves---a jumbo version of today's sugar cube, it would seem, which one chipped from ad lib. (See 23 March 1659/60 where he receives one as a gift upon going to sea.)

Warren Keith Wright  •  Link

"There were several grades of sugar, from the cones or 'loaves' which had to be broken up, pounded in a mortar and 'searced'" [sieved, before being used to bake with], "to the 'double refined' sugar, of the consistency of coarse salt, which would still have to be pounded and searced before use."
---Liza Picard's "Restoration London," p. 155 ("Recipes"); this book makes an excellent companion to the Companion.

Susanna  •  Link

Sugar from Barbados

Pepys' sugar almost certainly came from Barbados.

David Quidnunc  •  Link

Correction -- Sugar in Barbados

As Susanna says, Barbados did have sugarcane in Pepys's day. In my annotation above ("History of Sugar ...") I misread a sentence in Burke's essay on the website I linked to. Here's the relevant passage:

"In 1700, after sugarcane was introduced, although the population was then only about 30,000, there were some 1,300 sugarcane plantations and nearly 500 factories driven either by windmills or by animals. Barbados was soon producing about 8,000 tons a year."

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Source of sugar: Spain took the rights to the New World by Papal Bull in 1493.

In 1540 Jamaica was given to the Columbus family as a personal estate, but the island never flourished. Admiral Penn invaded in 1655 as a consolation for failing the Hispaniola raid. According to Ollard's Biography of Henry Morgan, Jamaican planters did not turn to sugar in a large way until 1664.

Barbados was ignored by the Spaniard, so the English colonized it circa 1625. The first planters concentrated on tobacco, ginger and indigo, then turned to sugar, and by 1650 the sugar crop was valued at 3 million pounds.

In 1663 Pepys gives a box of sugar to Mrs. Hunt. After all, you couldn't have your giant sugar cube unprotected ... but I doubt commercial packaging had arrived yet.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Aldgate was once the heart of London’s sugar-baking industry and, from the mid-17th century onwards, Germans brought their expertise to this volatile and dangerous trade, which required heating vast pans of sugar with an alarming tendency to combust, or even explode.

The hot and sticky atmosphere meant sugar-bakers worked naked, thus avoiding getting their clothes stuck to their bodies and, therefore avoiding the epilatory qualities of sugar.

As an interesting side note, as with other immigrant communities, there was discord over whether English or the language of the homeland should be spoken in their church and, by implication, whether integration or separatism was preferable – this controversy led to this community rioting in Aldgate on December 3, 1767.

From http://spitalfieldslife.com/2017/11/29/st-georg... which has lovely pictures of the 18th century German Lutheran church

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