An intriguing and easily digestible approach to world history. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.
I seldom read non-fiction but this title was just too fascinating AND was recommended to me by a friend. It turned out to be a very interesting read, even if the title does over-promise.
Standage writes in a very accessible style, with a bit of humor here and there, as he makes an argument that six beverages can tell the story of human history.
– Beer and other drinks made from fermented grains becomes the drink of choice for early civilizations for thousands of years, since it was safer and more interesting than water.
– Wine, requiring specific geographical areas for proper cultivation, came next, launching cross-cultural trading.
– Spirits emerge during the era of world exploration — after the process of distilling was discovered and there was demand for higher concentrations of alcohol that could be transported in smaller spaces.
– Coffee became widespread during the Age of Enlightenment when male-only coffee houses sprung up as social locations for discussing and spreading ideas. It was also the first beverage that sparked alertness after generations of people always being slightly tipsy.
– Tea, an alternate for women shunned from coffee houses, comes in the 1800s, imported from the Chinese and later grown in India. It’s a drink, many believe, had curative powers and is closely connected to the increasing power and influence of the British Empire.
– Coca Cola, one of the most interesting stories, and it’s spread around the world parallels the emergence of the United States as a global superpower.
Standage has written a few other books in this vein and I’m likely to explore them at some point. But after reading this one, I’m also reminded why I seldom read non-fiction. Instead of following a good story, at times, it feels a little like school-work.
More about author Tom Standage.