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A curious fact I learned from a BBC documentary series is that for most of history, right through the middle ages and the renaissance, sugar was more valuable than gold, weight for weight. You had to be seriously rich to be able to afford to eat sugar. It became the main economic driver for the colonisation of the caribbean islands in the 17th and 18th centuries. While the Spanish were busy plundering Aztec gold, Britain, France and the Netherlands were building sugar plantations on the caribbean islands and making a fortune selling sugar back to Europe. By the end of the 18th century, the price of sugar had fallen so much that the English tradition evolved of having afternoon tea, with sugar, and cakes, made with sugar. Afternoon tea is basically the UK thumbing its nose at the rest of the world and saying: look at us, we're so prosperous we can afford to eat sugar every day.

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