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Spoon Sweets: A Historic Gesture of Greek Hospitality

Spoon sweets
Spoon sweet made of quince. Credit: Gurman chef /Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

The delicious age-old tradition in Greece of offering “Spoon Sweets” to visitors goes way back to the fourteenth century when the Byzantines adopted the custom from Arab traders. It was a tradition as old as time in the Arab world to serve sweets to guests as a gesture of hospitality.

Spoon sweets are exactly what they sound like: just a spoonful of sweets. This tradition still lives on today throughout Greece and Cyprus. When someone stops by your home, you offer them a drink and a “spoon sweet,” which is a spoonful of preserves made from nutritious fruits, served on a spoon.

Today, the sweet treats are commonly served with a cup of Greek coffee or a glass of cold water, and the ingredients are much the same as they were hundreds of years ago. The delicious desserts are made from whole fruit, fruit pieces, nuts, purees, and even tree resin.

Spoon sweets
Spoon sweets made with sour cherry. Credit: /Wikimedia Commons/

Some favorite fruity sweets are prepared from citron, figs, oranges, and other fruits. You’ll come across different variations of the treat as you travel throughout Greece, and it isn’t even uncommon to be offered one while visiting a cafe—especially in villages—to accompany your Greek coffee.

Ypovrichio: The unique Greek spoon sweet

However, one of the most beloved and most iconic spoon sweets that Greeks enjoy—both young and old—originates from the island of Chios and is produced from tree resin. Greeks call it the “ypovrichio,” literally “submarine” in Greek, because it is eaten while submerged underwater in a drinking glass.

Ypovrichio comes in different flavors, such as vanilla, or mastic—since it is made from mastic tree resin, for which the island of Chios is famous.

And, how exactly, you may ask, do you eat this sugary fondant? Ypovrichio is served simply on a teaspoon which you dip into a glass of ice-cold water. Once your spoon is submerged in the water, the resin begins to soften.

It gradually turns into a smooth, fondant-like treat which you enjoy by licking the spoon…like a fondant lollipop only with ancient roots! Sweet traditions such as these are just another of the many things which make Greece unique.

Greek Loukoumia, or Turkish Delights

Greek loukoumia, or Turkish delights, also hold an important place in the world of Greek sweets. The delectable, soft little squares of sweet flavor coated in powdered sugar are an iconic symbol of Greece.

Made from the simple ingredients of water, starch, and sugar, and flavored with iconic tastes of Greece like rose, bergamot, and mastiha, loukoumia are easy to make but difficult to perfect.

Learn it’s fascinating history here.

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