Cyprus, a beautiful island in the eastern Mediterranean, is now mainly known as a popular holiday destination. With its pleasant beaches, beautiful mountains and bright sunshine, it is difficult to imagine that this island was once the heart of the sugar industry that supplied western Europe. Before the medieval period, honey was the source of sweet flavouring. The cultivation of sugar cane probably originated on the islands of the south Pacific, gradually spreading to India and China. It slowly expanded westwards, to Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean, and by the 10th century there is evidence of a sugar industry in Cyprus.
Sugar cane growing in Egypt (left) and before processing
When western armies went on crusade to the Holy Land, they encountered sugar cane for the first time. Gradually, sugar became known in Europe, initially as a medicine. Continue reading