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Treacle in a bowl

Treacle (/ˈtrkəl/)[1] is any uncrystallised syrup made during the refining of sugar.[2][3] 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.[4] 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.[3] Triacle comes from the Old French triacle, in turn from (unattested and reconstructed) Vulgar Latin triacula, which comes from Latin theriaca,[5] the latinisation of the Greek θηριακή (thēriakē), the feminine of θηριακός (thēriakos), "concerning venomous beasts",[6] which comes from θηρίον (thērion), "wild animal, beast".[7][8]


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.[9]

In popular culture[edit]

A traditional Cornish fisherman's celebratory drink is "Mahogany", made from two parts local gin—now usually Plymouth Gin—mixed with one part black treacle.[10][11][12]

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 what they ate for sustenance. "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. Margaret's Well at Binsey, Oxfordshire.[13]

In the British comedy Jeeves and Wooster, treacle was used by Bertie Wooster as an adhesive on paper to silently break a window to effect an art heist. The viscous properties of treacle led to comedic results and the utter failure of Wooster's plan.[14]

Some Americans were first introduced to this word in the TV series Doctor Who, when The Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, in the third episode of The Android Invasion. In a reference to both Alice in Wonderland and Three Sisters: Awakening somewhat delirious from neural torture, he says "Once upon a time there were three sisters, and they lived in the bottom of a treacle well. Their names were Olga, Masha and Irina."[15]


UK production is almost exclusively from Tate & Lyle. Black treacle - Fowlers and Blackie's both referred to it as treacle (cf Golden Syrup). Tate & Lyle acquired both companies. Treacle (black) before WW2 could be seen served from a barrel and transferred to the customers' container with a 'stick'.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "treacle, n.", in the Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  2. ^ "Treacle Origins and Uses at".
  3. ^ a b Oxford Dictionary ISBN 978-1-85152-101-2
  4. ^ "Definition of TREACLE".
  5. ^ theriacus, Charlton T. Lewis, Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary, on Perseus
  6. ^ θηριακός, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  7. ^ θηρίον, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  8. ^ Treacle, on Oxford Dictionaries
  9. ^ Heriot p 392
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-12-13. Retrieved 2014-12-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Gin Brandy Beer and Treacle".
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-12-16. Retrieved 2014-12-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Wodehouse, P.G. (3 May 1992). "Comrade Bingo". Jeeves and Wooster. Series 3. Episode 6. Event occurs at 34:13. ITV.
  15. ^ Recap / Doctor Who S13 E4 "The Android Invasion"


External links[edit]