Mary Poppins, Europe’s greatest nanny ever
Europe, sweet Europe! Wherever you’re from in the old continent, it’s likely at least some of your childhood memories concern treats both sugary and edible – whether they take the form of cute little bears, vintage marshmallow cars or a Belgian’s nose. Do you recall the colourful lollipops, salted caramels or refreshing mints you used to get after school? Remember auntie’s sweet jars titillating your eyes (and then your tastebuds) after dinner? And what about that cute but catchy jingle that keeps on popping into your brain, whether you want it to or not: “kids and grown-ups love it so…“? (You finished the sentence, right? Course you did!) This blog is for all those who love the treats that brought us so much joy and surprise. If you’ve a sweet tooth or a candy crush, read on! You’ll learn which surreal Spaniard branched out from canvas to cellophane … which mountainous nation gave us the sweet that pops out of Mickey Mouse’s neck … and which happy accident brought the Brits’ beloved Bertie to life. So whether you’ve a liking for salty liquorice or mouthwatering marshmallows; sticky lollipops or jelly toffees, take a stroll around our European sweetshop!
Everyone raves about these delightful fruit sweets – available in pineapple, orange, lemon, blueberry, strawberry and peach – and the Portuguese have been enjoying the original Penha products for over 40 years. But this delicate and creamy sweet was actually never meant to be – at least, not meant to come to life by the packaging company who now produces it. Back in 1965, the first supermarkets were taking off in Portugal, competing with the grocery stores which only sold products in bulk. The company Lusiteca was created to sell food packaging – in particular, for spices like paprika, pepper and cinnamon. As consumption rose, brands started doing their own packaging, and Lusiteca needed to find a new line of business. And – for which all of Portugal is grateful – they chose to branch into confectionery: the iconic and cherished Penha Caramelos Frutas, often given as change instead of coins when there was a shortage.
In many ways the Chupa Chups lollipop, invented in 1958, is a design classic. The invention of Spanish businessman Enric Bernat was the first sweet on a stick that truly captured kids’ imagination, liberating them (and their parents) from the tyranny of sticky fingers. Up until then, sweets had been marketed to adults and kept on high shelves, hardly encouraging an impulse buy; Chupa Chups were the first sweet to be placed in a jar on the counter, directly within sight (and within grasp) of its target consumers. It even had a clever name, Chupa Chups, taken from the Spanish verb ‘chupar‘, to suck. And they realised that, however great a product, it’s nothing without a good logo, Bernat called on the services of an artist friend of his. Sitting at a pavement café with Bernat one day in 1969, Salvador Dalí, yes, the Salvador Dalí, scribbled away furiously on the pages of a discarded newspaper and, within an hour, had come up with the sweet’s famous daisy logo.
Step forward, the Carambar, the French dentist’s most faithful friend … In 1954, George Fauchille, director of the Lille-based company Delespaul-Hazard, together with one of his employees Augustin Gallois, tried a new, original recipe to use up a surplus of caramel. The legend says that one of the machines in the factory was malfunctioning and tried to mix chocolate with caramel. This combination unexpectedly produced a long, soft caramel bar: the Caram’bar was born. Its success quickly became phenomenal, if not magical. Abracarambar! The inside of the wrappers originally featured “Carambar points”, which could be redeemed for various Carambar-related products – until 1961, when the points were replaced by jokes. If you ever had the pleasure of having a Carambar in your hands, you’ll be familiar with these little supposed witticisms – of such poor quality that the expression blague Carambar (Carambar joke) has become a byword for bad or childish humour.
Icelanders are candy fanatics! They even go so far as to have a verb, “nammi“, specifically meaning ‘shopping for candy’ – that’s how seriously they take the sweet stuff. Or even the sour stuff. Among the oldest of their treats are the tiny pastilles of sour licorice known as Opal, designed by Nóa Siríus in the 50’s, and often advertised as throat lozenges. Icelanders go nuts for these small gummy treats – which are hard at first bite, softening over time to become chewable – while foreigners tend to steer clear, wary of their unusual flavour. Since their invention, boxes of Opal have had kept the same hypnotic and distinctive pop-art design almost without interruption. It was only in 2005 that Nóa Siríu tried to “modernise” the box and make it more futuristic. But Icelanders weren’t to be fooled: faced with a popular revolt, the distributor had to revert back to the original …
Who’s Ireland’s answer to Willy Wonka? Thomas Caffrey, that’s who: founder of the oldest remaining family-owned, family-named chocolate company in Ireland. He began making confectionery in Dublin in 1930 when he founded Caffrey’s confectionery, and continued until he was in his 70s, employing thousands on the Emerald Isle. The big break came in the 1950s when the company got a contract with Woolworths and supplied confectionery for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953. In 1948, Caffrey had invented Snowball, a confectionery icon which is almost impossible to describe to anyone who hasn’t tasted it. Describing it as ‘a marshmallow centre milk chocolate shell covered with coconut” is like describing a Picasso as a canvas coated with oil. The taste is the taste of childhood: an initial blast of coconut, like a Hawaiian dancer doing a hula on your taste buds, followed by just a hint of chocolate and then that overwhelming attack of mouth watering marshmallow.
This joyful jumble of liquorice-laden delights came about in 1899, when a gentleman called Charlie Thompson, a salesman for the Bassett Company, accidentally dropped a box containing samples of liquorice sweets during a meeting with a buyer in Leicester. The buyer liked the look of this medley of munchables and placed an order there and then; Liquorice Allsorts were born! A 215g bag of Allsorts contains around 36 sweets, mostly a colourful combination of sweet candy paste and black liquorice. Every packet includes seven different varieties – coconut chips, buttons, cream rocks, sandwiches, cubes, Battenberg and of course always one Bertie. This cheery chap, himself made out of liquorice, made his first appearance as the Basset mascot in 1929 – the prize in every bag!
They can be stretched, bent and eaten in a thousand different ways… they use natural colours and flavours … and did I mention they’re delicious…? That’s just some of the reasons why Norwegians like Laban Seigmenn so much. Made since 1965, these “Laban jelly men” are sugar-coated, fruit-flavored, stick figure-shaped gummies that have a light and softly chewy-bouncy texture, without being too sweet or sticking to your teeth. Approximately 90% of all Norwegians are familiar with the sweet: between them, each year they munch through around 150 million of the little jelly men, women and, yes, babies. Put all those sweets in a row, and they would stretch from the northern tip of Norway down to sunny Rome! Seigmenn are a natural part of many Norwegians’ weekend candy, enjoyed in front of the TV; or at birthdays, Christmas or Easter; or as cake decoration. Other versions include a lady-Laban Fruktige Seigdamer (like the menfolk, but with breasts); a sour version, Sure Skrikerunger; and a salty licorice version, Salte Rockere.
For most genuine car enthusiasts, 1953 stands out as a milestone in human history. This was the year when the first mass produced Ahlgrens bilar car-shaped foam candy rolled out off the production line in Gävle, under the greatest of secrecy. Most of the factory workers were gripped by this momentous occasion, and stories spread throughout the community about these strange and wonderful automobiles in shades of pink, green and off-white. The small marshmallow cars – which the marketing department like to claim, not implausibly, is the world’s most sold car in terms of numbers of units – are so popular within Sweden that several delicious new varieties have been introduced over the years. The bolder driver could try the sour-sugared cars – a machine to be steered with caution, in case your tears make you take your eye of the road. But the hottest model is salt liquorice: with a flavour sharp enough to puncture tyres, it also has the soft and supple road handling so characteristic of Ahlgrens bilar.
They’re traditional, utterly Finnish, and many people wouldn’t even consider them candy. We’re talking about salmiakki – known in English as salt liquorice. It is a very popular treat in Finland and other Nordic countries – but it’s no secret the stuff is something of an acquired taste. Flavoured with (and named after) ammonium chloride, sal ammonicus, salmiakki has a strong, salty flavour which Finns love. Or, should I say, which only Finns love – with few exceptions. Even if the adventurous (non-Finnish) candy lover who never heard of salmiakki might prefer to keep it that way. There is another popular variation of Salmiakki: Vodka Salmiakki, usually sold under the Finnish vodka brand Koskenkorva. The addition of the salty liquorice makes the vodka thicker and denser, so it is best taken neat, as a shot, and accompanied by nothing more than a song…
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. And this time, it’s nothing to do with politics … but sweets! In Denmark, BonBon Lossepladsen are a selection of popular hard-boiled sweets with some peculiar, and stomach-churningly scatological, names. You don’t believe me? Well, the “Bogeyman” is normally used to fill kids with fear – all the more so when it’s the name of a salty sweet in gruesome green. But it doesn’t stop there. If you can cope with such varieties as “Dogpoop” (a brown, round lump); “Earwax” (brown with a “surprise” filling) ; or “Seagull droppings” (light brown with a black stripe), then maybe you’re ready to move on to the “Rotten Fish” (red, with a salty surprise on the inside), “Duckfood” (black and light green); “Sewage Sludge”(round, sour, and yellow and orange in colour); “Donkey Kick” (white with a black stripe); or “Chicken Breast” (a dark, square lolly). If you still want more, head on down to BonBon-Land, the accompanying leisure park (I’m not even kidding), where you can reach new and nauseous heights with rides like ‘The Farting Dog Switchback’ or ‘Water Worm’…
Dutchies truly love their liquorice – or Drop as it is known in the Netherlands. Your average Dutch person eats more of it than in any other country on earth – putting away nearly 2 kilos a year of the black stuff! So what’s the deal with the Dutch and drop? In the Netherlands, Drop comes in many shapes and sizes from small Groente Erwten (green peas) to the large chewy coins known as Muntdrop. Common shapes include coins, shoelaces, cats, cars, pyramids, hearts and herrings, to name only a few. There is a flavour or type of Drop for every taste – from sweet to salty, hard to soft – including the infamous dubbel zout, or “double salt” – strictly not recommended for anyone but die-hard drop devotees. Not just a tasty treat, liquorice is also believed to have anti-inflammatory and other medicinal properties and has been used to treat ailments for centuries. However, excessive consumption is also known to be toxic to the liver and cardiovascular system. Drop it before you drop out!
Belgium’s got a secret sweet… It’s the Cuberdon, a cone-shaped candy, also known in Dutch as a neus (nose). You can recognise a classic Cuberdon as a violet-coloured sugar cone containing a thick raspberry syrup. The most widespread legend concerning its origin claims the candy was first made in the 19th century by a clergyman living in Flanders, near Bruges; thereby, the story goes, gaining its nickname of ‘priest’s bonnet’. Another legend says that, in 1873, Ghent pharmacist De Vynck discovered the recipe by chance. In order to increase the shelf life of drugs at the time, many were packaged in the form of syrup. When the pharmacist examined a failed preparation after a few days, he found that it had formed a crust, while the core was still liquid. From this discovery came the idea to use such a technique to manufacture candy. In any case, the Cuberdon is a must-taste… so hop on a train, take that plane and enjoy your cuberdon by the kilo!
Whether “gummy” or “gummi,” whether you prefer bears or worms, whether your loyalty lies with Haribo or Black Forest, there’s no denying that the gelatinous, rainbow-coloured candies most of us first came to know and love simply as “gummy bears” are one of the world’s most popular confections. The iconic sweet – called Gummibärchen in German – was invented by Hans Riegel in Germany in 1922. Indeed, the world-famous company Haribo is named after him and his hometown: HAns RIegel von BOnn. Using acacia gum to create coloured candy, Riegel hit upon what would prove to be a genius idea: a line of soft, gelatin-based, fruit-flavored treats in the shape of dancing bears, then a popular diversion at festivals in Europe. As one might expect, the Tanzbären (“dancing bears”) were an instant hit with local tots; by the start of World War II, the sweet superpower had over 400 employees producing ten tons of candy a day.
These famous mechanical pocket candy dispensers were cutting edge technology in their day. Which of us can’t remember the thrill, as kids, of seeing candy coming out of Bugs Bunny’s head when you tilted it back? With the endless variety of dispenser designs, they’ve now become a collector’s item. The candy itself is simple sugar candy in a variety of flavours. But you probably had no idea they were invented in Austria: the clue is in the name, an abbreviation of PfeffErminZ, German for peppermint. Eduard Haas created the peppermints using his family’s baking powder, and decided to serve the mints in small, hand-size containers. The first PEZ mint dispensers, known as “regulars,” were similar in shape to a cigarette lighter, and dispensed an adult breath mint marketed as an alternative to smoking. PEZ dispensers have since become part of popular culture in many countries. Despite the widespread recognition and popularity of the PEZ dispenser, the company still considers itself to be primarily a peppermint company!
Here is a sweet that splits Europe in two … but not in the usual way. If you’re from Portugal, Spain, Belgium or Romania – or most of all Switzerland – you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about when I mention Sugus. The others won’t have a clue. If you take an even bigger picture and read this from Asia, and in particular China: just look around! There is a great chance of finding a “瑞士糖” in your immediate environment, which literally means “Swiss candy”. We won’t deny it, Sugus is Switzerland’s most popular chewy candy. Every Swiss person knows the familiar mix of four different fruit flavours wrapped in one of four differently-coloured squares. The name Sugus was most likely chosen because it’s easy to pronounce and palindromically reads the same from front to back. The Swiss chocolate company, Suchard, introduced it in Switzerland, in part, to help diversify its product range, as chocolate sales would generally decline in summer. After all, it makes sense—how much more practical, on a summer’s day, is a Sugus in your child’s pocket, rather than a molten lump of chocolate!
Who doesn’t know Rossana? More than just a sweet, it every Italian’s unforgettable childhood companion, with a unique and inimitable flavour! Rossana sweets used to be everywhere, in grandma’s pocket, auntie’s sweet jars; they even came home with dad after work. So beautiful and elegant to look at, robed in their unmistakable red dress; however, they hide a secret: a creamy heart of milk which blends the tenderness of almonds with the flavour of hazelnuts, a timeless delight! Rossana Perugina or simply the “Rossa” (red) was founded in 1926 in Perugia, in homage to Roxanne, the woman loved by Cyrano de Bergerac. Over the years, the sweet with its mysterious feminine charm has become a true taste of Italy, still loved today by millions of Italians of all ages.
It is really hard to describe the taste of this pink, fruity sweet that used to cost exactly one Czechoslovak Crown. The first word that comes to mind is “bubblegum”: more chemical than agriclutural, the flavour is 99% sugar with just a hint of fruits, preservatives and additives. Organic, it ain’t. So it comes as some surprise that the product tastes good – at least for about 5 minutes. In the 90s, different pictures and tattoos started appearing on the the gum packaging, so now it’s cooler and more necessary than ever to give Pedro a try (and don’t worry: the tattoo won’t last much longer than the taste of the gum itself). Pedro chewing gum was made from 1968 until 1992 by confectionery producer Velim, when the company was acquired by Nestle, before production halted in 1994. In the mid-nineties, the rights were acquired by Candy Plus.
Slovak Sněhulky are mint candies which started their journey in 1969 in Czechoslovakia: the first breath-fresheners of the socialist era. With a delicate, refreshing and balanced taste of mint and fruit, their specific consistency means they “melt tenderly in your mouth like snow” – or so the admen say. In Slovak hypermarkets Globus and Interspar you can taste not only traditional flavours of mint and peppermint but also strawberry, lime and orange. The products are discounted and you will obtain a present for your purchase. Snehulky are definitely the most notable product made by the Figaro Trnava company, which also sells a whole range of candies under the brand of Verbena: rocks, lollipops, jelly bonbons and chocolate coated bananas.
Krówki literally means “little cows”, in case any of you get surprised by a herd when googling this Polish delicacy. A mix of fudge, toffee and caramel sauce at first slowly melts, then sticks to the teeth, and ultimately leaves a redolent milky accent as it disappears. The store versions come in three types: crumbly, soft and hard-shell-chewy-centre. Needless to say, the contrast of textures of the last is mind-blowing. Krówki are made of a lump of something a bit like toffee, with fresh Krówki at first soft and malleable. With the passing of time, however, they start to crumble, as the sugar crystallises. Krówki were invented in the first half of the 20th century by Polish confectioner Feliks Pomorski. the candies were wrapped up in pieces of paper with a picture of a cow, which later rendered the name ‘little cows’ popular, and used even nowadays on account of this traditional packaging.
These sweets are a living legend, but maybe the brand would need a refresh, as it still features the old design of a swallow on the wrappers. You guess it: the name of the sweet Kregždutė actually means swallow, being as light and sweet as the bird itself. It tastes of coco, milk and pomegranate. It is produced by the confectioners’ “Victory”, founded in 1952 and later called Vilniaus pergalė, who can claim the biggest factory in the Baltics, with confectionery products famous for their quality and original recipes for over 60 years!
When Latvians are talking about their national identity, nothing features more prominently than a genuine Gotiņa– the ‘Little Cow’ candy. It is basically a sweet, semi-soft cream-based candy available in a variety of flavours, but Latvians prefer the original or ‘classic’ ones. At the very beginning, the authentic Gotiņa candy recipe included boiled fresh milk, sugar, glucose or starch syrup, butter and vanillin. They were wrapped in a decorative keepsake tin, colourful and full of warm pictures. Since 1957, the traditional Skrīveru Gotiņa candies have been produced at the Skrīveru Saldumi factory, which became the first company in Latvia to produce what soon became Latvia’s national sweeet. Most Gotiņa sweets are handmade, making the product still more unique, and ensuring a result which cannot be achieved by mere machinery. Gotiņa was named most popular Latvian food product in Lithuania by consumers, winning the 2011 “Namejs Award”.
In Estonia, all sweets made by the Kalev company are a source of national pride. The birth of the Estonian confectionery industry dates back to 1806 when a pastry cook, Lorenz Caviezel, opened a confectionery business in Tallinn, where the Café Maiasmokk (Sweet Tooth) is located. At the turn of the 20th century, before the business was acquired by the company Kalev, the Russian tsar’s court were regular customers. Throughout the Soviet period, Kalev produced sweets at full capacity for Estonia, as well as almost the whole Soviet Union, also supplying the “uncrowned rulers” of the Kremlin. The sweets of Kalev include a wide range of various candies: from chocolate candies and dragees with exciting fillings – the most emblematic being the honeybear Mesikäpp – to caramels and gummies, such as Draakon. The Draakon jelly candy range includes several berry flavours: strawberry, wild berry and red fruit. You should definitely taste them, they contain only natural food colours and flavourings!
Kommunarka is one of the most famous Belarusian manufacturers of confectionery popular with people of all generations. It produces numerous sweets, chocolate, hard candies, candy drops and cocoa powder. The history of Kommunarka began on the 11 September 1905 when, for the first time, George Raczkowski’s Café and bakery of confectionery products got its commercial licence from the Minsk city administration. By 1935, the sweets Belorusskaya kartoshka and Kommunarka developed by the factory’s production engineers were included in the first reference book which spread a unified set of confectionery recipes across the Soviet Union. This was the start of a sweet adventure which culminates with the creation of the Frutomelka sweets – hard candies of different fruity flavours, from orange and lemon, to strawberry, apricot, apple and mint.
Ukrainians’ favourite sweets, Shipuchka, also known in the United States as Mr. Fizzy, are hard candy pieces with a fizzy filling. It is produced by Roshen, the confectionery company owned by no less than the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, also known as the ‘Chocolate King’. Shipuchka are a special kind of candy that comes in a variety of different flavours, including Orange, Lemon, Tutti-Frutti, and Lemonade. Each is differently coloured and shaped like a small football. While at first glance you might think it is a simple hard candy, you’ll quickly realise it is much much more… When the delicious hard surrounds are sufficiently dissolved, a fizzy powder slips out and sparks the tastebuds with a distinctive but hard-to-describe tang. In 2015, a group of American children experimented with Ukrainian Shipuchka for the first time. Some found the sweet “amazing”, while others were confused when they discovered the sour filling. A video showing their reactions went viral, getting over 7 million views in just few days!
Moldova – Romania
They promise to make our “Life sweeter with them…” Who? Bucuria – the largest confectioner’s in Moldova – which accounts for almost 90 percent of the country’s total candy production. The history of the “sweet legend” of Moldova began long ago, in 1946, from an association of several small manufacturers’. This year was marked by the ordinance of the Soviet Republic to modernise and launch production at Factory Nr. 1 in Chisinau. There was very little time: so Moldovan confectioners started using old equipment from Germany to produce the first lots of candy and caramel. By 1955, the factory produced 7.5 tons of candy and 4.5 tons of chocolate a day. By 1986 production capacities reached 42,000 tons of confectionery per year. Among their best sellers – and Moldovans’ favourite – are the Răcuşori. They are layered hard candies with chocolate and nuts filling. The shell is of a light rose colour with dark red stripes.
Well… if you’re anything like me, you might at first thing Negro is somewhat racist for a sweet name. But no offence should be taken: it’s far from that. The name does actually not refers to black people, or even to the colour black. Instead, according to factory lore, it is named after the Italian confectioner Pietro Negro who in the early 1920s invented a new type of hard candy while looking for ways to use leftovers from the production of sour sweets. That’s how he invented this popular Hungarian sweet – which comes in several flavours, the most popular original variety being the ones with mint and aniseed. While the recipes are a closely-held secret, Negro remains Hungary’s leading brand of hard candy and throat lozenge, and is among the country’s best known consumer products. Every Hungarian has grown up with this candy and, they will proudly affirm, nothing else can compare. Not just for pleasure: if you have the bad luck to have a sore throat, Negro is sure to beat the best remedy you can find at the chemist’s. Indeed, the Negro advertising slogan calls the throat drops “the chimney sweep of the throat” – with said chimney sweep being depicted on the wrapper.
Not merely the best Slovenian candy maker: Šumi is today the only Slovenian candy maker! Šumi has been making Slovenian lives sweeter since 1876. The history of the brand began when Franc and Josipina Šumi opened a pastry shop in Congress Square, Ljubljana. Then they manually produced different kinds of sweets, chocolate, biscuits, jam, cooked raspberry juice and many more. In 1923, the Company employed 30 workers together producing about 400 tons of confectionery per year. But they had to wait until 1968 to launch the first candy with a liquid filling. This ended up as Frufru: a mix of fruit flavoured caramel, jellies and gummy candy in diverse shapes, which Slovenians soon adopted as their national favourite. Frufru excel for their fruit juices, vitamins and minerals – and their freedom from artificial flavours and colourings. Young Slovenians love Frufru sweets, in particular because of the attractive Mega tattoo contained in its wrapper.
Croatia – Serbia – Bosnia and Herzegovina – Montenegro – Kosovo
If there is one company to remember in the Balkans, it would be the Croatian Kraš which traces its origins from two factories from the early 20th century: “Union”, founded in 1911, the oldest surviving chocolate manufacturer in south-eastern Europe; and “Bizjak”, founded in 1923. These two companies merged in 1950 and took on a new name in honour of Josip Kraš, a union leader and prominent Croatian communist who was killed in World War II. Among the wide selection of confectionery Kraš offers, it’s the famous KIKI and Bronhi toffees that stand out. Back in 1935, the beloved Kikis were advertised with the tagline “No matter where, Kiki is everywhere”, while the slogan for Bronhi stated “Cough, weak or strong, Bronhi heals it all”. In the 1930s, Kraš started producing the famous candy named 505 sa crtom (‘505 with line’), for which special machinery was purchased, in order to create a hard fruity candy with a dark line around it. According to the commercial ad of the time, only a product with the line could guarantee the original European quality.
These were the best Albanian sweets ever! KarameleZana were simple caramel sweets that you could find everywhere in the Good Old Days. Zana caramels were originally produced by Albanian vineyards in the 1980s. At that time, they were wrapped in a memorable first layer transparent red paper outside and a second layer white paper inside. Surviving the fall of the Communist regime, they remained in the Albanian market even after the 1990s. Even after the company producing them went bankrupt a few years ago, KarameleZana have kept their essential place in Albanians’ minds and memories… to the extent that one former Albanian prime minister even composed an erotic poem involving the sinful sweeties… And you might wonder if the name is related to the Albanian mythological creature zana e malit, the mountain fairy of local folklore … ?
Are they real sweets? They so much look like real slices of lemon, orange or melon! They exactly reproduce the consistency and look of a perfect fruit – but with more sugar and taste… Bulgarian Limonovi rezanki are actually jelly bonbons made with the jelly-like substance agar-agar. With its magnificent fruit flavours, natural colours and sprinkling of fine sugar crystals, those Limonovi rezanki bring a well-deserved dose of delight. It has been produced by the company Zaharani Zavodi for more than 50 years. For the celebration of its 100th anniversary, the company invited 700 Bulgarians to share their memories about the bonbons. One lady reconstructed a vintage apartment from her childhood memories where her grandmother used to hide Limonovi Rezanki in her dresser. During the exhibition, the sweets on display started to disappear one by one…
The name “Europe” isn’t only the beauty of the continent and its countries; the same name (Macedonian: Европа, Evropa) is carried by the oldest confectionery factory established in 1882 in Skopje! This factory has developed through the years, starting as a vendor of chocolate, candy and lokum. Evropa is a company which has left a mark on a great number of generations and holds this recognition for more than 130 years, which produces around 5,000 tons a year, with sales at home and abroad. Macedonians cannot walk into their grandma’s house, without noticing at least one full jar of Evropa hard drops. White mint Bela Menta are among the highest selling sweets in the Balkans. If you visit Macedonia, don’t forget to try those iconic silky mint sweets and bring some back home for your friends and family!
Hold on a minute… Greeks really have a candy named after their national alcohol? Sure they do, and they are proud of it too! Ouzo is a liqueur that’s been a favourite in Greece for centuries: but now you can enjoy its distinctive liquorice flavour in a hard candy. Naturally flavoured, they’re a perfect, breath refreshing sweet to take after a meal or a drink. If you’ve never tasted Ouzo this is a new experience, at least for non-Greeks. Floating through your mouth with a waft of aniseed that freshens and calms, it is very a “Greek” sensation. But you may be disappointed: it does not contain alcohol. History lovers note: the drink Ouzo has its tangy roots in tsipouro, which is said to have been the work of a group of 14th-century monks on Mount Athos. Ouzo is traditionally served with a small plate of a variety of appetisers called mezzes – usually small fresh fish, fries, olives and feta cheese. Ouzo can be described as having a similar taste to absinthe; also liquorice-like, but smoother.
It looks terrible but tastes amazing! Soujoukos is a traditional candle-shaped candy that is made from almonds or walnuts passed through a thread and then dipped into a cream made from grape juice and flour. The procedure is similar to the traditional candle making and in Cyprus it is usually served with an alcoholic drink called Zivania. It is possible that the name Soujoukos comes from the word sujuk (turkish sucuk or armenian soujoukh, which is a type of sausage) because of its shape after it has been prepared. The Soujoukos is made with almonds or walnuts, shelled and soaked to turn soft, and then sewn onto a cotton thread of around 2m length. The thread is dipped several times in finished palouze, a process that may take several days since each layer has to dry on the string before a new one is put. Every time it is dipped, a new layer of palouze is added on the previous one until its diameter reaches four to six centimeters.
Turkish delight must be the only sweet in the world to be so embedded in a country’s national identity. We do not think of Britain and mint humbugs or America and bubblegum, but we do think of Turkey and Turkish delight. Turkish delight was invented by Bekir Affendi, who came to Istanbul in 1777 from the eastern province of Anatolia. His first shop, Haci Bekir, in a narrow street close to the spice bazaar, is still owned by his descendants and run by the fifth generation of the families he employed. The Turkish name for the sweet comes from the Arabic rahat-ul hulkum, which means “soothe or heal the throat”. This was abbreviated to rahat lokum and then lokum. The name “Turkish delight” evolved in the 18th century when an English traveller took home some of Bekir’s produce home to his family. He could not pronounce the Arabic name and so coined Turkish delight. It stuck like syrup…