A History of the World in Six Glasses

By Tom Standage

“…Beer was first made in the Fertile Crescent and by 3000 BC was so important to Mesopotamia and Egypt that it was being used to pay wages. In ancient Greece, wine became the main export of a vast seaborne trade, helping to spread Greek culture abroad. After the fall of Rome, spirits such as brandy and rum, made using a process devised by Arab alchemists, fueled the Age of Exploration, fortifying seamen on long voyages and oiling the pernicious slave trade. Coffee also originated in the Arab world and went on to inspire scientific, financial and political revolutions in Europe during the Age of Reason, when coffeehouses became centres 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….”

His book argues that each drink is a form of disruptive technology, a catalyst for advancing culture which demonstrates the intricate interplay of different civilizations.

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