Candy has its origins mainly in Ancient India. Between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, the Persians, followed by the Greeks, discovered the people in India and their “reeds that produce honey without bees”. They adopted and then spread sugar and sugarcane agriculture. Sugarcane is indigenous to tropical South and Southeast Asia, while the word sugar is derived from the Sanskrit word sharkara. Pieces of sugar were produced by boiling sugarcane juice in ancient India and consumed as khanda, dubbed as the original candy and the etymology of the word.
Before sugar was readily available, candy was based on honey. Honey was used in Ancient China, the Middle East, Egypt, Greece and the Roman Empire to coat fruits and flowers to preserve them or to create forms of candy. Candy is still served in this form today, though now it is more typically seen as a type of garnish.
Before the Industrial Revolution, candy was often considered a form of medicine, either used to calm the digestive system or cool a sore throat. In the Middle Ages candy appeared on the tables of only the most wealthy at first. At that time, it began as a combination of spices and sugar that was used as an aid to digestive problems. Digestive problems were very common during this time due to the constant consumption of food that was neither fresh nor well balanced. Banquet hosts would typically serve these types of ‘candies’ at banquets for their guests. One of these candies, sometimes called chamber spice, was made with cloves, ginger, aniseed, juniper berries, almonds and pine kernels dipped in melted sugar.
The Middle English word candy began to be used in the late 13th century.
The first candy came to America in the early 18th century from Britain and France. Only a few of the early colonists were proficient in sugar work and sugary treats were generally only enjoyed by the very wealthy. Even the simplest form of candy – rock candy, made from crystallized sugar – was considered a luxury.