A History of the World in 6 Glasses
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From beer to Coca-Cola, the six drinks that have helped shape human history
Throughout human history, certain drinks have done much more than just quench thirst. As Tom Standage relates with authority and charm, six of them have had a surprisingly pervasive influence on the course of history, becoming the defining drink during a pivotal historical period.
A History of the World in 6 Glasses tells the story of humanity from the Stone Age to the 21st century through the lens of beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola. Beer was first made in the Fertile Crescent and by 3000 B.C.E. was so important to Mesopotamia and Egypt that it was used to pay wages. In ancient Greece wine became the main export of her vast seaborne trade, helping spread Greek culture abroad. Spirits such as brandy and rum fueled the Age of Exploration, fortifying seamen on long voyages and oiling the pernicious slave trade. Although coffee originated in the Arab world, it stoked revolutionary thought in Europe during the Age of Reason, when coffeehouses became centers of intellectual exchange. And hundreds of years after the Chinese began drinking tea, it became especially popular in Britain, with far-reaching effects on British foreign policy. Finally, though carbonated drinks were invented in 18th-century Europe they became a 20th-century phenomenon, and Coca-Cola in particular is the leading symbol of globalization.
For Tom Standage, each drink is a kind of technology, a catalyst for advancing culture by which he demonstrates the intricate interplay of different civilizations. You may never look at your favorite drink the same way again.
corresponds with modern France. This battle, one of the turning points in world history, marked the high-water mark of Arab influence in Europe. The subsequent crowning of Martel's grandson, Charlemagne, as Holy Roman Emperor in 800 CE heralded the start of a period of consolidation and eventual reinvigoration of European culture. The King of Drinks "Woe is me!" wrote Alcuin, a scholar who was one of Charlemagne's advisers, to a friend during a visit to England in the early ninth century CE.
fishhooks, and needles. But then, starting around 12,000 years ago, a remarkable shift occurred. Humans in the Near East abandoned the old hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the Paleolithic period (old stone age) and began to take up farming instead, settling down in villages which eventually grew to become the world's first cities. They also developed many new technologies, including pottery, wheeled vehicles, and writing. Ever since the emergence of "anatomically modern" humans, or Homo sapiens
purified antimony, which was used as a cosmetic, to paint or stain the eyelids. The term was used more generally by alchemists to refer to other highly purified substances, including liquids, so that distilled wine later came to be known in English as "alcohol of wine." Distillation equipment in a medieval laboratory. The production of spirits began as an obscure alchemical technique known only to a select few. From their obscure origins in alchemical laboratories, the new drinks made
to hold things with their feet as well as their hands; the prodigious height of palm trees; and "the extreme deliciousness of the queen pine apple," then a new and exotic fruit from the West Indies. Coffeehouses were centers of self-education, literary and philosophical speculation, commercial innovation, and, in some cases, political fermentation. But above all they were clearinghouses for news and gossip, linked by the circulation of customers, publications, and information from one
contemporary observer. They could also have special blends of tea made up for them by Twining to match their tastes. Knowledge of tea and its ceremonial consumption in genteel surroundings at home became a means of demonstrating one's sophistication. Elaborate tea parties emerged as the British equivalent of the Chinese and Japanese tea ceremonies; tea was served in porcelain cups, imported in vast quantities as ballast in the same ships that brought the tea from China. Authors offered advice on