History of Candy: Sweet Learning

Behind every candy wrapper is a story. Here is a concise history of sweets through the many years.

| April 2005

People love sweets. Americans alone consume 7 billion pounds of candy a year. Our appetites for sweet treats are satisfied by a colorful variety of goodies, and behind every candy wrapper is a story.

It seems the sweet tooth has always been part of the human anatomy. Words for candy appeared in the vocabularies of many ancient peoples.

About 4,000 years ago, Egyptians combined honey with flour and spice, or fruits and nuts, to make their own ancient confections. They even colored the mixture with brilliant food dyes. Because honey was made by bees, and only the wealthy could afford to keep bees, it was not very plentiful. Candy was only available to the rich and powerful.

In the fifth century, Arabs learned that candy could be made from sugar cane. By boiling the cane, it could be reduced to hard crystals, and sugar was born. The Venetians added to this discovery in the 1470s. They found that by repeatedly boiling sugar, they could create a fine-grained sugar.

A lot of people's favorite candy ingredient is chocolate, which is native to the Americas. Spanish explorers returned with the cacao bean. Chocolate has a bitter taste, but the Spaniards found that by adding sugar to the chocolate, they could sweeten its taste.

For more than 100 years, the Spanish kept the discovery of chocolate to themselves, and it wasn't until 1657 that the English opened their first chocolate house. In 1765, the first chocolate factory opened in America.

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