The Berlin Sugar Museum

Compiled from information supplied by Andreas Walter

The Museum is the oldest sugar museum in the world and was founded in 1904 on the 3rd floor of a

building that was erected by the Institute of Sugar Industry, one of the first food analysis laboratories in Germany. Since 1989 the Museum has been open to the public. It is divided into eleven sections and allows the visitor a deep insight into all the themes related to sugar.

Here are a few stories about some of the exhibits.

On the staircase is a painting. It shows a critical moment in the history of sugar. Friedrich Wilhelm Ill, King of Prussia meets Franz Carl Achard, the 'father of the sugar beet'. Franz is handing over a memorandum in which it is stated the Prussian government will save about 4 million taler if they spend 50,000 taler to build the first sugar beet factory in the world. This happened in 1799 but this picture does not show the truth. In fact Franz Carl Achard wrote the memorandum and routed it through official channels to the king. A personal audience with the king did not take place.

Amongst the exhibits is a medieval crystallisation funnel found in an excavation of a Cyprus sugar

cane mill. It is 15Ih century. Persian physicians discovered in 600 AD the method to refine sugar from sugar cane juice with the crystallisation funnel. The procedure was very expensive, took a lot of time and was not very effective. The end product was the sugar loaf. This refinery process was used until approximately 1850 worldwide. Indian people first invented the word 'sugar". It is from the Sanskrit language and called 'Sarkara' which translates as 'little crushed pieces'. Europeans were introduced to sugar at the beginning of the ~ 2ce'n~tury by Crusaders. In the Middle Ages sugar was as valuable as gold and treated as a rare luxury spice and medicine only sold in chemist's shops.

A separate section displays the sugar basins, bowls, shakers and other devices used to store or serve sugar.  They are made from precious metals such as gold and silver, and porcelain; some with a lock and key to keep the sugar safe and secure.

Models of the three ships Christopher Columbus used for his four journeys to the New World are displayed. Christopher Columbus discovered America when he was searching for another way to India and China. In America he found no gold, spices or other precious things so on his second journey he took sugar cuttings and their growth spread throughout mid and south America. Thus the age of Colonial sugar was born in America and not When new beverages coffee, tea and cocoa became popular in Europe, all stimulating, but having a bitter taste, sugar was used to sweeten them. As the popularity of these beverages grew so the consumption of sugar increased. Sugar was still expensive. In 1650 a German quarryman had to work seven days to buy one kilogram of sugar.

Slavery depicts the grim side of the sugar industry.

Approximately 10 to 20 million Africans were taken to America or died as a result. 80% of all slaves shipped to Middle America and the Caribbean Islands worked on sugar cane plantations. A slave on a plantation lived approximately three to five years. The slave trade took place between 1500 and 1850.

The sugar beet section, the reason Berlin owns a sugar museum occupies another section. In 1774 Andreas Sigismund Marggraf, a Berlin scientist, discovered that the fodder beet contains the same sugar as sugar cane. His student and successor, Franz Carl Achard, cultivated sugar beet from the fodder beet in 1798 in Berlin and built the first sugar beet factory in the world which was located in Silesia, now part of Poland. In 1806 due to a blockade of Europe in the Napoleonic wars, colonial sugar was cut off and replaced by beet sugar.

Other exhibits feature Johann Christopher Rad, inventor of the sugar cube. (We issued a leaflet with Newsletter 36 with information about him.) There is a dimensional model of a sugar refinery which was made for an exhibition which took place in Berlin in 1927 and many other interesting items used or connected with the sugar industry.

The last section 'without sugar there is no alcohol' shows when and where man discovered the making of wine and beer. The oldest written evidence about beer is 7000 years old. Alcohol is created by the  fermentation of carbohydrates. Alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine contain up to 15% of alcohol. Spirits such as whisky, brandy etc., are produced by distillation of alcoholic liquids. The first distillers in Europe were Scottish monks who distilled from wine brandy, called 'aqua vitae' or 'water of life'. This took place about 1100 AD.

Berlin Sugar Museum Website

Originally published in Sweet Thoughts 48

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