One lump or two? Czech your tea!
My paternal grandparents were both Cornish. As such, they truly loved their afternoon tea. It was always an event with them and I recall well my grandmother Phillips laying out the teacups, teapot, cream, and sugar cubes. I wonder what she would have said to me, back then, if I had piped up and asked her “Nana, do you know where the sugar cube was invented?”
I can bet you a pivo to a pasty she never, ever would have said “Why, in Bohemia, of course!” Now my Czech mother would have been beaming from ear-to-ear for sure, but my Nana? Not so much.
But, ah yes, it is a Czech invention and here is its story.
Let’s go back, way back, to the 1800s in the village of Dačice, located in Moravia, now in the Southern Bohemia region of the now Czech Republic.
In this village was a sugar beet factory. Not an uncommon facility in the country at the time. In one of these factories, the director was a fellow by the name of Jakob Kryštof Rad. Also not surprisingly in the same village lived his wife, Juliana Radová. Since they had a reported 16 children, they must have been a loving and industrious couple!
The story (so far I have seen no actual authentication of it) goes as follows.
In the old days, sugar was only provided in a large block, called a sugar loaf. Homemakers would then have to cut into these large, very hard sugar loaves in order to get a smaller, useable portion of sugar. In those early times, only the well-to-do and nobility had access to something called a sugar box. These boxes contained a blade to cut the sugar loaf and holes in the bottom for the cut sugar to fall through into a drawer below. It was far safer than just taking a knife to an incredibly hard sugar loaf in order to carve off some useable pieces.
One day, Mrs. Radová cut her hand while performing the task of hacking off a portion of a sugar loaf in her kitchen. Jakob, evidently being a good husband and possibly an entrepreneur in his own right, noticed this injury and decided to do something about it.
It took Jakob a few years, but in 1843 he received a patent on his machine that took sugar and pressed it into uniform, small cubes automatically. On January 23, 1843 he was granted a five-year patent on his sugar cube making machine from the authorities in Vienna and the rest, as they say, is history! Czech history at that!
Now the next time you pull out your sugar bowl and ask your guest ‘one lump or two?’ you can add some authentic Czech ‘flavor’ to your offer and really improve their cup of tea!