There’s nothing quite like enjoying a bag of mints. They come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, strengths, and flavours, plus they’re the kind of sweet that you don’t have to feel guilty about. After all, neither you nor the people around you want your breath to smell like the tuna salad you had for lunch.
Mint sweets are often considered the choice of the older generation, with young whippersnappers usually opting for chewier, fizzier, and more vibrantly coloured goodies. However, mints are a timeless classic that’s loved by all generations and they have a history spanning thousands of years.
Chew like an Egyptian
Believe it or not, it was the Ancient Egyptians who invented mint sweets. To be fair, they also invented mathematics, astronomy, clocks, writing (as well as the papyrus and ink to go with it), geometry, metallurgy, and many other amazing things, so the breath mint probably wasn’t much of a challenge for them.
These old-school mints were a far cry from our modern-day humbugs and spearmint chews, as they were in the form of pellets made from frankincense, myrrh (not gold though), and cinnamon. These core ingredients were mixed up and then boiled with honey, all of which sounds quite pleasant, doesn't it?
Those clever old Egyptians would regularly suck on these minty treats, but that wasn’t all they did to keep their mouths fresh. They were also the inventors of both the toothbrush and toothpaste, delaying the rancid morning breath until they were turned into mummies. Moral of the story: if you’re going to travel back in time and accidentally get stranded, try to make it in Ancient Egypt because they all smelled minty fresh.
The Greeks thought it was magical
It wasn’t just the Egyptians who loved mint. The Ancient Greeks considered it a sign of hospitality, used it in their baths, and also flavoured their water with it because they believed it held special powers.
Greek athletes would rub mint leaves over their wet skin after bathing to give them extra strength, whereas students wore wreaths made of mint to sharpen their mental faculties. Even the senators used it liberally, believing that sprigs of mint on their person would help them to speak more eloquently whilst keeping their temper at bay during debates.
The Romans spread it around their empire
Like the Greeks, the Romans added mint in their baths. They also gave it to slaves in the form of a tonic by mixing it with barley water. Wealthy Romans crowned themselves with mint leaves during feasts and they were even used in some buildings as a cleaning agent to give floors a pleasing scent.
In true Roman fashion, the conquerors took mint with them wherever they went, resulting in the herb becoming a common ingredient across the world.
Mint made Medieval life more bearable
The Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans are known for their wisdom, innovation, industriousness, and organisational skills. In general, they’re also considered clean civilisations due to their focus on bathing and personal hygiene. As for people who lived in Medieval times… well, they weren’t quite as nostril-friendly.
With disease, pestilence, filth and grime everywhere you looked, Medieval Europe was no picnic. Thank goodness that mint had made it this far, as those pongy peeps would use it to purify drinking water that turned sour during long ocean voyages. They also used it on insect bites and as a digestive aid, as well as to freshen their breath, which shows how versatile this simple plant is.
Meanwhile, the superpowers contained within a single mint leaf continued to hold sway. The French would make bouquets of mint and St John’s Wort to scare off evil spirits, whereas the English said that if you found a flowering mint plant on Midsummer’s Day you’d be happy forever. Blimey.
The birth of the modern mint sweet
Mint leaves continued to be used for all kinds of things, from adding enjoyable aromas around the home to proving the perfect accompaniment to a plate of lamb chops. Brandy balls were popular in London in the 1850s, as they contained peppermint and cinnamon and advertised as “warming the tongue like brandy does”. Other types of peppermint sweets were also available throughout Europe around this time, which were made by independent traders in their homes.
In 1879, The Times shared a peppermint recipe, giving exact measurements for making the perfect mint sweets. Whilst they were very popular, they didn’t commercialise until 1893, which was when everything changed. That was the year when Wrigley’s spearmint chewing gum launched in America and took the world by storm. Even though chewing gum had been invented by Thomas Adams in 1869, it was Wrigley’s that made it a hugely popular flavour that was then picked up by confectioners everywhere.
Types of mint sweets
Our online shop always has plenty of mints available and we even have sugar-free mints, suitable for our customers who are diabetic or on a diet. We also love seeing you guys enjoying our retro sweets, so make sure to take a selfie and share it on our Facebook page.
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