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An 1820 sketch by Rowlandson showing members of the lower orders enjoying saloop, which they are drinking from the saucer.[1]

Saloop was a hot drink that was popular in England in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Initially, it was made from salep — a flour made from orchid roots which thickened the drink — which mostly originated in Smyrna.[2] Later, the roots and leaves of the North American sassafras tree were the key ingredient. This plant thickened the drink and also had a stimulating quality.[3][4]

This refreshing beverage was sold in place of tea and coffee, which were much more expensive, and was served in a similar way with milk and sugar.

It was used as a remedy for various ailments, including "chronic alcoholic inebriety."[5] Its popularity declined when it was purported to treat venereal disease and so drinking it in public became shameful.[6] Saloop stalls in London were replaced by coffee stalls.[7]


  1. ^ Thomas Rowlandson (1820), Rowlandson's Characteristic Sketches of the Lower Orders of the British Metropolis, Samuel Leigh
  2. ^ Church, A.H. (1893). Food: some account of its sources, constituents and uses. The University of Leeds Library: Chapman and Hall Ld. p. 29.
  3. ^ Holly Chase (1994), "Suspect Salep", Look and Feel: Studies In Texture, Appearance and Incidental Characteristics of Food, Oxford Symposium, pp. 45–46, ISBN 978-0907325567
  4. ^ Edwin Augustus Peeples (1994), Planting an Inheritance, Stackpole Books, p. 62, ISBN 978-0811712064
  5. ^ Ward, Artemas. The encyclopedia of food: their comparative values and how best to use and enjoy them. 1923. p. 451.
  6. ^ Jonathan Pereira (2014), The Elements of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, 1, Cambridge University Press, p. 463, ISBN 978-1108068833
  7. ^ Mayhew, Henry (1861). London Labour and the London Poor. 1. p. 27.