Even with all the questions that modern science has answered, there are still mysteries that researchers can’t put to rest. Was there an Atlantis? What happened to Amelia Earhart? Questions like these continue to haunt people, but one mystery stands above them all with regards to how frustratingly elusive the answer remains to this day. What is the origin of toffee?
The Earliest Number
Even the authorities of candy history and etymology, such as the almond toffee specialists at ferncreekconfections.com admit that no one is sure where toffee truly came from. The earliest record that puts a definite number on the origin of toffee was when the word was published in the 1825 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.
It’s reasonable to believe that the candy itself was already in existence, and there are sparse pieces of evidence to support that hypothesis. The only problem is that no one can pin down a definite location or period of when humanity first concocted the sugary confection. Instead, people are left with similar sounding words to help point them in the general direction of a correct answer.
One of the hypotheses with a slightly stronger case is the case of Harold McGee, a food writer who claims that the word toffee comes from a native Creole language. The word toffee is supposedly a variant of another word that describes a mixture of molasses and sugar. The claim fails because McGee didn’t mention which Creole language the word comes from.
The rest of the hypotheses are a collection of similar sounding words that make a convincing case for the origin of toffee, but not a definitive one. One example is the word ‘tafia’, which is a West Indian rum. The reason this theory holds some water is that candy makers used to flavor their sweets with cheap rum.
Similar pieces of evidence gives some level of credence to the other hypotheses, but they all ultimately fall short of the final test in proving once and for all where toffee came from. Humanity may never know the origin of toffee, and though its answer might not matter in the long run. But it’ll be one of the strangest enduring mysteries of all time.