History of meads

27 January 2019

Mead is an alcoholic drink created by the fermentation of honey with the addition of water, often also with other additives such as:   fruits,   herbs,   roots and vegetables. 

In Poland it is assumed that mead should contain from 9% to 20% alcohol.   I assume in the world that honey can contain from 3.5%   up to 20%.   Mead beverages can be carbonated or not, dry, semi-dry, semi-sweet or sweet. In Poland, the division is unique in the world: czwórniaki, trójniaki, dwójniaki and półtorak. 

In Poland, there is the conviction that mead is a typically Polish liquor.   This is incorrect, meads were always very popular in Poland, belonged and belong to one of the best, but it is not a Polish invention.   This alcoholic liquor has been known since antiquity in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. He often played an important role in   rituals, mythology and important events. 

The oldest mead was found in the tomb of the Chinese ruler, from the year 7000 BC. It was a mixture of honey, rice and fruit juice.   The first written testimonies about mead are found in the Indian religious work created between 1700-1100 BC, called Rigveda .   The oldest preserved description of mead is in the Rig Veda hymns.   In Europe, the first written testimonies come from ancient Greece. 

On the territories of today’s Poland   the production and consumption of mead by the Slavs has existed for a long time. This is evidenced by the first, preserved records, made in the year 966 by the Arab spy of the merchant and slave trader Ibrahim Ibn Jakob, regarding mead as a commonly used drink in the Duchy of Polanie. We can read about honey in the chronicle of Gallus Anonymus, who wrote: 

“… a country where the air is healthy, the role of fertile, honey forest” 

During the Piast period   the country did not drink wine,   they were replaced with more easily available liquors, such as beer and mead. The Venetian diplomat Ambrogio Contarini wrote about the Poles: 

“[…] With no wine, they make a drink of honey, 
which drunks people much more than wine “ 

Saturated honey enjoyed a high reputation, but it was rarely drunk, most often on the occasion of important celebrations such as weddings and was more popular among richer social classes. Poor social strata drank beer or weak honey.   In times   Piastów mead became an export commodity and a means of payment. Penalties imposed by the court were paid for with honey, and the best one was kept in the royal treasury. In the XIV century. They were already miodosytnie in Lviv and Gdansk. One of the first recipes for mead was written by Marcin Kromer (1543), Szymon Syreński (1611), or Jan Herman of Neydenburk (1673). 

At the end of the XVI century.   honey slowly lost its importance, replaced by cheaper and easier vodka in production.   In the 17th century, vodka has already established itself in Poland, and wars and defeats have decimated apiaries and degraded cellars, which have always been a tasty morsel for passing armies. High inflation and climate cooling have also come to this. However, honeys were still quite popular, which can be confirmed by various relationships   traveler. 

However, already during the Enlightenment, the final fall of miodosytnictwa took place. Cheap vodka and beer completely vomited honeys from the diet of poorer sections of society, and good, high quality vodkas and imported wines replaced honeys among the richer social classes. To this honey was getting weaker and inferior quality because in order to reduce production costs, an incredibly thin wort or added sugar was used. 

In the XIX century. As a result of disappearance of the miodosite traditions, attempts were made to resurrect miodosytnictwa in Poland. Informers, poets and technologists also took part in this informal movement.   Literature created a favorable atmosphere. In “Philly’s Song” Mickiewicz wrote: “We drink honey in Poland, and Maria Konopnicka in the song” Polish Beekeepers “praised the advantages of this drink: 

Honey drank Batory, 
saws and Jan from Tarnów, 
He drank him at Vienna, the hero 
Jan Trzeci, 
And Poland was healthy after this honey 
Over a series of long centuries. 

Every Pole seems to associate Mr. Zagłoba. It was Henryk Sienkiewicz who created this   the most famous mead fan in Polish history. However, it was not only the literature that contributed to the revival of miodosytnictwa, scientists, beekeepers and enthusiasts also had their contribution to this. Their main goal was to revive the tradition of miodosytnictwa in the Polish lands. The most famous of them was Teofil Ciesielski, professor of botany at the University of Lviv. In the interwar period, the number of Miodoswives increased. 

Unfortunately, the outbreak of the Second World War has wasted efforts to revive miodosytnictwa. After the war, the communists took action to liquidate private enterprises, which led to   the fall of recent existing miodositni that existed in the pre-war period. In the period of the PRL, apiculture cooperatives tried   very inefficient to produce mead. 

After the fall of communism in Poland, new Miodosno began to appear shyly. And although there is still a long way ahead, we are heading in the right direction to restore the glory of Polish mead. Poland is one of the largest producer of industrial meads and the only country apart from Etiopi and Eritrea, in which the tradition of sowing honey has never been abandoned.

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