Tom Standage provides a history of the mostly Western world through the lens of 6 different fluids that have fueled economies, encouraged trade between nations, inspired exploration across seas, and have fully come to shape our modern human lives in ways that seem like second nature.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, although it took me a while to really get into it. The book follows a chronological order as we encounter different drinks throughout the eras. I found the earliest sections on beer and wine to be somewhat boring and also tightly packed with information. The coffee chapter was too short, but enjoyable and enlightening. I liked the amount of trivia found in the book, along with its social and political implications and influences of various drinks (tea houses, coffee-houses, prohibition, etc).
Standage does a good job of tying our history and modern connection with the specific drink. It adds a level of appreciation for the drinks that we have easily accessible and the hardships our ancestors faced trying to sell or buy these same products. If there is any particular drink that you want to learn more about, this book provides a good introductory view at the 6 main drinks in our history. Beer, wine, spirits, tea, coffee, and soda. Standage provides a detailed list of sources in the back for further reading. There are also various black and white illustrations throughout the book, highlighting significant people, and events. This book provides a new insight and perspective of our history and evolution as a culture as a result of our desire to create and share drinks. Some of the more fun trivia:
- The Mayflower did not land at their planned destination because they ran out of beer on ship (at the time, beer was less contaminated that water, and therefore healthier to drink)
- The first coffeehouse in England was started by an Armenian servant. He was eventually run out-of-town by his competition.
- Coca Cola’s original formula did in fact come from the cocaine plant.
- Coca Cola was originally distributed in syrup packets. Buyers had to provide the carbonated water.