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Bottle of Dutch treacle

Treacle, or molasses (North American), is any uncrystallized syrup made during the refining of sugar.[1][2] Treacle is used both in cooking as a sweetener and as a condiment.

The most common forms of treacle are the pale syrup known as golden syrup and the darker syrup usually referred to as dark or black treacle. Dark treacle has a distinctively strong, slightly bitter flavor, and a richer color than golden syrup,[3] yet not as dark as molasses. Golden syrup is the main sweetener in treacle tart.


Historically, the Middle English term treacle was used by herbalists and apothecaries to describe a medicine (also called theriac or theriaca), composed of many ingredients, that was used as an antidote treatment for poisons, snakebites, and various other ailments.[2] Triacle comes from the Old French triacle, in turn from (unattested and reconstructed) Vulgar Latin triacula, which comes from Latin theriaca,[4] the latinization of the Greek θηριακή (thēriakē), the feminine of θηριακός (thēriakos), "concerning venomous beasts",[5] which comes from θηρίον (thērion), "wild animal, beast".[6][7]


Treacle is made from the syrup that remains after sugar is refined. Raw sugars are first treated in a process called affination. When dissolved, the resulting liquor contains the minimum of dissolved non-sugars to be removed by treatment with activated carbon or bone char. The dark-colored washings[clarification needed] are treated separately, without carbon or bone char. They are boiled to grain (i.e. until sugar crystals precipitate out) in a vacuum pan, forming a low-grade massecuite (boiled mass) which is centrifuged, yielding a brown sugar and a liquid by-product—treacle.[8]

In popular culture[edit]

Treacle tart with clotted cream

At Halloween, especially in Scotland, a traditional task visiting children had to accomplish in order to win their treat was to eat a scone spread with treacle which was suspended on a piece of string at about head height. They had to do so without using their hands, resulting in treacle-covered faces.[citation needed]

A traditional Cornish fishermans' celebratory drink is 'Mahogany' made from 2 parts local gin - now usually Plymouth Gin- mixed with one part black treacle.[9][10][11]

In chapter 7 of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the Dormouse tells a story of Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie living at the bottom of a well, which confuses Alice, who interrupts to ask. "The Dormouse again took a minute or two to think about it, and then said, 'It was a treacle-well.'" This is an allusion to the so-called "treacle well", the curative St. Frideswide's Well at Binsey, Oxfordshire.[12]

In "I'm Called Little Buttercup" from Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore, Buttercup includes "treacle and toffee" in her list of treats for sale.

The British pop band Fire recorded a song called "Treacle Toffee World" for the B side of a 1968 single.

The Arctic Monkeys have a song called "Black Treacle" on their album Suck It and See.

In "Wooly Bear", a season two episode from Thomas & Friends, a crate of treacle fell on Percy.

In the "Harry Potter" book series, Treacle Tart and Treacle Pudding were among Harry's favorite foods.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Treacle Origins and Uses at". 
  2. ^ a b Oxford Dictionary ISBN 978-1-85152-101-2
  3. ^
  4. ^ theriacus, Charlton T. Lewis, Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary, on Perseus
  5. ^ θηριακός, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  6. ^ θηρίον, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  7. ^ Treacle, on Oxford Dictionaries
  8. ^ Heriot p 392
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ p14, Oxford in English literature: the making, and undoing, of "the English Athens" (1998), John Dougill, University of Michigan Press, ISBN 0-472-10784-4.


  • Heriot, Thomas Hawkins Percy (1920). The manufacture of sugar from the cane and beet. London: Longmans, Green and co. 

External links[edit]