A History of the World in 6 Glasses

Monday, March 11, 2019

Ever thought about the role of your favorite drinks in shaping human history? Well, water used to be the only drink available a few thousand years ago. But times changed and people discovered different beverages to suit their tastes and society. And in the process, they influenced history.

Tom Standage explored the history of alcoholic beverages and others in his book, and how they spread all over the world. He is an English journalist and has his work published in reputed publications like The Economist. From tax on rum to French Revolution because of coffee, his book – A History of the World in 6 Glasses – tells the story behind beer, coffee and other popular beverages.

Listen to the summary at Blinkist or Listen to the book at Audible.

How beer settled civilizations?

Beer is thought to be the oldest alcohol in the world, and helped form the biggest ancient civilizations.
Beer is thought to be the oldest alcohol in the world, and helped form the biggest ancient civilizations.

It’s the end of Ice Age, around 10,000 BC when people discovered beer. In an area around the present-day Middle East was the place which saw an abundant production of wild cereal grains. The people used to soak the grains in water and then left it to ferment for a few days.

The intoxicating fizzy liquid formed in the process took the people by surprise. It was the discovery of what you can call beer. People loved its taste and the way it made them feel. They loved it so much that they began farming and growing those cereals. Thus, Mesopotamia beer is one of the reasons that civilization started in human history.

Read more: The Mesopotamian Beer

The inhabitants started planting and cultivating to fuel their need for beer, and those early settled humans turned into civilizations. Beer became a symbol of civilized life and people also shared it during ceremonies as a sign of hospitality.

Wines at the party

Through the history, wine was regarded as a drink for the elite.
Through the history, wine was regarded as a drink for the elite.

While the exact wine origin country isn’t known, it was the Greeks who produced affordable wines. Earlier, the Assyrian kings used to import it from the faraway east. And the availability of wine in their ceremonies was a way to showcase their power.

The elite class which frowned upon drinking of beer accepted wine whole-heartedly. Wine started flowing in the parties and soon, became a drink of the intellectuals. Along with the fame of artists and poets, spread the wine culture. And when Romans became the dominant power, they took over the trade.

Read more: Why is Curiosity Important?

The Romans started producing wine in their country. And higher the social status of a person, better the quality of wine he/she drank. With further development in technology, distilled wine started gaining popularity.

The Europeans used it as a cure for heart diseases. The British even colonized Caribbean islands and mass produced sugar there. And they levied taxes on importing molasses from other colonies except British. The Molasses Act (1733) thus, added another chapter to human history.

The American colonists there defied the law and imported French molasses. This defiance and several other factors then resulted in the American Revolutionary War.

The catalyst to the Industrial Revolution

Most historians agree that the timeline of the coffee history begins in Ethiopia.
Most historians agree that the timeline of the coffee history begins in Ethiopia.

While beer and wine still were serving their masters, another drink became popular among the Arabs – coffee. And by the seventeenth century, it found its place across Europe.

Because of contaminated water, the Europeans used to consume alcohol instead. And coffee seemed as safe as alcohol, minus the intoxication. The intellectuals thus switched to coffee. This drink gave them energy and help them wake up in the mornings.

Read more: The History of the Modern Middle East

The political debates (along with academic discussions) shifted to coffeehouses from taverns. And it’s said that those debates and heated discussions were the ultimate reason behind the fall of the monarchy.

Next, let’s talk about tea, a drink known for being British. The tea history, however, starts in another country. OK, what country does tea come from? It’s China. Dutch were the first to import tea from China, and its popularity soon spread throughout Britain.As the British started promoting tea plantations and tea houses, it became affordable even to the lower classes. The medicinal properties of tea kept the workers’ health conditions better.

They could work more and thus, contributed to industrial growth.Moreover, the producers had to come up with innovative ways to boost tea production, to meet the growing demands. And thus, tea has a fair share in the Industrial Revolution.

Coca-Cola – the global phenomenon

Coca Cola is an important player in soda drink history.
Coca Cola is an important player in soda drink history.

Another groundbreaking discovery in human history is the soda. Soda came forward as a refreshing drink, and the history of soft drinks goes back to the US. While a British – Joseph Priestley invented soda, it was the Americans who added flavors to it. It was the result of experiments by John Pemberton which led to the world-famous Coca-Cola.

Read more: A Brief History of Coca-Cola

Along with the American troops, Coca-Cola traveled all over the world and slowly, became a global favorite. It established bottling plants outside the US, and their growth provoked the Arab boycott. How? Well, Israel forced Coca-Cola to have a bottling franchise in Tel Aviv which offended the Arabs.

Now, that you know a little about the history of beverages, I would call the wine enthusiasts, soft drink devotees and the others to –

  • Delve deep into the story of their favorite beverages
  • Check how the drinks impacted the historical events.

These drinks influenced the course of human history!

Tea has also been a major influence on human history.
Tea has also been a major influence on human history.

The beverages traveled a long way to become what they are now. They shaped the history and will continue shaping our lives in the future.

Abhijeet Kumar a freelance content writer for aSabbatical.com
We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.

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