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Bottle of Dutch treacle

Treacle is any uncrystallised syrup made during the refining of sugar.[1][2] The most common forms of treacle are golden syrup, a pale variety, and a darker variety known as black treacle. Black treacle, or molasses, has a distinctively strong, slightly bitter flavour, and a richer colour than golden syrup.[3] Golden syrup treacle is a common sweetener and condiment in British cookery, found in such dishes as treacle tart and treacle sponge pudding.


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 latinisation 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-coloured 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

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]

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]