A History of the World in 6 Glasses

A History of the World in 6 Glasses Book Cover A History of the World in 6 Glasses
Tom Standage
Bloomsbury Publishing USA
May 26, 2009

I stole this from my daughter. It was a summer reading assignment for her Sophomore year AP World History class. I loved it! From beer to Coca-Cola, the six drinks that have helped shape human history all 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.

beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola—

It was the drink that first helped humanity along the path to the modern world: beer.

Moistened grain produces diastase enzymes, which convert starch within the grain into maltose sugar, or malt. (This process occurs in all cereal grains, but barley produces by far the most diastase enzymes and hence the most maltose sugar.)

Gruel that was left sitting around for a couple of days underwent a mysterious transformation, particularly if it had been made with malted grain: It became slightly fizzy and pleasantly intoxicating, as the action of wild yeasts from the air fermented the sugar in the gruel into alcohol. The gruel, in short, turned into beer.

Repeated use of the same mash tub promoted successful fermentation because yeast cultures took up residence in the container’s cracks and crevices, so that there was no need to rely on the more capricious wild yeast.

Later Egyptian records mention at least seventeen kinds of beer,

From the start, it seems that beer had an important function as a social drink.

Although it is no longer customary to offer visitors a straw through which to drink from a communal vat of beer, today tea or coffee may be offered from a shared pot, or a glass of wine or spirits from a shared bottle. And when drinking alcohol in a social setting, the clinking of glasses symbolically reunites the glasses into a single vessel of shared liquid. These are traditions with very ancient origins.

Since beer was a gift from the gods, it was also the logical thing to present as a religious offering.

Farming paved the way for the emergence of civilization by creating food surpluses, freeing some members of society from the need to produce food and enabling them to specialize in particular activities and crafts, and so setting humanity on the path to the modern world.

The more farming was relied on as a means of food production by a particular community, and the more its population grew, the harder it was to go back to the old nomadic lifestyle based on hunting and gathering.

Keeping surplus food in the storehouse was one way to ward off future food shortages; ritual and religious activity, in which the gods were called upon to ensure a good harvest, was another. As these two activities became intertwined, deposits of surplus food came to be seen as offerings to the gods, and the storehouses became temples.

People may have wanted to be near important religious or trading centers, for example, and in the case of Mesopotamia, security may have been a significant motivation.

That beer drinking was seen as a hallmark of civilization by the Mesopotamians is particularly apparent in a passage from the Epic of Gilgamesh, the world’s first great literary work.

One survey of Egyptian literature found that beer, the Egyptian word for which was hekt, was mentioned more times than any other foodstuff.

Mesopotamians and Egyptians alike saw beer as an ancient, god-given drink that underpinned their existence, formed part of their cultural and religious identity, and had great social importance.

the world’s oldest written recipe is for beer. The evolution of the written symbol for beer in cuneiform.

In Egypt, as in Mesopotamia, taxes in the form of grain and other goods were presented at the temple and were then redistributed to fund public works. This meant that in both civilizations barley and wheat, and their processed solid and liquid forms, bread and beer, became more than just staple foodstuffs; they were convenient and widespread forms of payment and currency.

Written records of payments to the construction workers show that the pyramids were built by state employees, rather than by an army of slaves, as was once thought. One theory is that the pyramids were built by farmers during the flood season, when their fields were under water. The state collected grain as tribute and then redistributed it as payment; the building work instilled a sense of national unity, demonstrated the wealth and power of the state, and provided a justification for taxation.

Although neither Mesopotamian nor Egyptian beer contained hops, which only became a standard ingredient in medieval times, both the beverage and some of its related customs would still be recognizable to beer drinkers today, thousands of years later.

archaeological evidence suggests that wine was first produced during the Neolithic period, between 9000 and 4000 BCE, in the Zagros Mountains in the region that roughly corresponds to modern Armenia and northern Iran.

Herodotus, who visited the region around 430 BCE, described the boats used to carry goods by river to Babylon and noted that “their chief freight is wine.”

The origins of contemporary Western thought can be traced back to the golden age of ancient Greece in the sixth and fifth centuries BCE, when Greek thinkers laid the foundations for modern Western politics, philosophy, science, and law.

Thucydides, a Greek writer of the fifth century BCE who was one of the ancient world’s greatest historians, “the peoples of the Mediterranean began to emerge from barbarism when they learnt to cultivate the olive and the vine.”

Euripides put it in The Bacchae: “To rich and poor alike hath he granted the delight of wine, that makes all pain to cease.”

Hesiod’s Works and Days, written in the eighth century BCE, which incorporates advice on how and when to prune, harvest, and press grapes.

Wine was wealth; by the sixth century BCE, the property-owning classes in Athens were categorized according to their vineyard holdings:

Archestratus, a Greek gourmet who lived in Sicily in the fourth century BCE and is remembered as the author of Gastronomia, one of the world’s first cookbooks, preferred wine from Lesbos.

Homer’s Odyssey, written in the eighth century BCE, describes the strong room of the mythical hero Odysseus, “where piled-up gold and bronze was lying and clothing in chests and plenty of good-smelling oil: and in it stood jars of old sweet-tasting wine, with the unmixed divine drink in them, packed in rows against the wall.”

Aeschylus, a Greek poet, put it in the sixth century BCE: “Bronze is the mirror of the outward form; wine is the mirror of the mind.”

Water made wine safe; but wine also made water safe. As well as being free of pathogens, wine contains natural antibacterial agents that are liberated during the fermentation process.

“Wine reveals what is hidden,” declared Eratosthenes, a Greek philosopher who lived in the third century BCE.

Speaking through one of the characters in his book Laws, Plato argues that drinking with someone at a symposion is in fact the simplest, fastest, and most reliable test of someone’s character.

Placing too much power in the hands of the ordinary people, Plato argued in his book The Republic, led inevitably to anarchy—at which point order could only be restored through tyranny.

In The Republic, he depicted Socrates denouncing proponents of democracy as evil wine pourers who encouraged the thirsty people to overindulge in the “strong wine of freedom.” Power, in other words, is like wine and can intoxicate when consumed in large quantities by people who are not used to it. The result in both cases is chaos. This is one of many allusions in The Republic to the symposion, nearly all of which are disparaging. (Plato believed, instead, that the ideal society would be run by an elite group of guardians, led by philosopher kings.)

So the ships that carried Greek wine were carrying Greek civilization, distributing it around the Mediterranean and beyond, one amphora at a time. Wine displaced beer to become the most civilized and sophisticated of drinks—a status it has maintained ever since, thanks to its association with the intellectual achievements of Ancient Greece.

Wine offered one way to resolve this paradox, for the cultivation and consumption of wine provided a way to bridge Greek and Roman values.

For the Romans, wine therefore embodied both where they had come from and what they had become.

The Italian peninsula became the world’s foremost wine-producing region around 146 BCE, just as Rome became the leading Mediterranean power with the fall of Carthage in northern Africa and the sack of the Greek city of Corinth.

Such was the popularity of wine that subsistence farming could not meet demand, and the ideal of the noble farmer was displaced by a more commercial approach, based on large villa estates operated by slaves.

The finest wine of all, by universal assent, was Falernian, an Italian wine grown in the region of Campania.

Where the symposion was, at least in theory, a forum in which the participants drank as equals from a shared krater, pursuing pleasure and perhaps philosophical enlightenment, the convivium was an opportunity to emphasize social divisions, not to set them aside in a temporary alcoholic haze.

The convivium reflected the Roman class system, which was based on the notion of patrons and clients.

Columella, a Roman agricultural writer of the first century CE, claims that when used carefully, such preservatives could be added to wine without affecting its taste.

Posca was commonly issued to Roman soldiers when better wines were unavailable, for example, during long campaigns. It was, in effect, a form of portable water-purification technology for the Roman army.

Lying on his deathbed in 395 CE, the emperor Theodosius I divided the empire into western and eastern halves, each to be ruled by one of his sons, in an attempt to make it easier to defend.

Another factor in maintaining the wine-drinking culture was its close association with Christianity, the rise of which during the first millennium elevated wine to a position of utmost symbolic significance. According to the Bible, Christ’s first miracle, at the beginning of his ministry, was the transformation of six jars of water into wine at a wedding near the Sea of Galilee. Christ told several parables about wine and often likened himself to a vine: “I am the vine, you are the branches,” he told his followers. Christ’s offering of wine to his disciples at the Last Supper then led to its role in the Eucharist, the central Christian ritual in which bread and wine symbolize Christ’s body and blood. This was, in many ways, a continuation of the tradition established by members of the cults of Dionysus and his Roman incarnation, Bacchus. The Greek and Roman wine gods, like Christ, were associated with wine-making miracles and resurrection after death; their worshipers, like Christians, regarded wine drinking as a form of sacred communion.

By the time of Muhammad’s death in 632 CE, Islam had become the dominant faith in most of Arabia.

Muslims’ duties include frequent prayer, almsgiving, and abstention from alcoholic drinks.

“Wine and games of chance . . . are abominations devised by Satan. Avoid them, so that you may prosper.

It seems likely, however, that the Muslim ban on alcohol was also the result of wider cultural forces. With the rise of Islam, power shifted away from the peoples of the Mediterranean coast and toward the desert tribes of Arabia. These tribes expressed their superiority over the previous elites by replacing wheeled vehicles with camels, chairs and tables with cushions, and by banning the consumption of wine, that most potent symbol of sophistication.

Wine’s central role in the rival creed of Christianity also predisposed Muslims against it; even its medical use was banned.

The advance of Islam into Europe was halted in 732 CE at the Battle of Tours, in central France, where the Arab troops were defeated by Charles Martel, the most charismatic of the princes of the Frankish kingdom that roughly 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.

At a time when the wisdom of the Greeks had been lost in most of Europe, Arab scholars in Cordoba, Damascus, and Baghdad were building on knowledge from Greek, Indian, and Persian sources to make further advances in such fields as astronomy, mathematics, medicine, and philosophy.

The Gaelic for aqua vitae, uisge beatha, is the origin of the modern word whiskey. This new drink quickly became part of the Irish lifestyle.

Elsewhere in Europe, aqua vitae was called “burnt wine,” rendered in German as Branntwein and in English as brandywine, or simply brandy.

The emergence of these new distilled drinks occurred just as European explorers were first opening up the world’s sea routes, reaching around the southern tip of Africa to the east, and crossing the Atlantic to establish the first links with the New World in the west.

The African slavers who supplied the Europeans with slaves accepted a range of products in exchange, including textiles, shells, metal bowls, jugs, and sheets of copper. But most sought-after by far were strong alcoholic drinks.

brandy was even better. It allowed more alcohol to be packed into a smaller space inside the cramped hold of a ship, and its higher alcohol content acted as a preservative, making it less likely than wine to spoil while in transit.

The connections between spirits, slaves, and sugar were further strengthened following the invention of a powerful new drink made from the waste products of the sugar-production process itself. That drink was rum.

Rumbullion, a slang word from southern England that means “a brawl or violent commotion,” may have been chosen as the drink’s nickname because that was frequently the outcome when people drank too much of it.

What turned out to be far more important was Vernon’s idea to add sugar and lime juice to the mixture to make it more palatable. He had invented a primitive cocktail that was immediately named in his honor. Vernon’s nickname was “Old Grogram,” because he wore a waterproof cloak made of grogram, a coarse fabric stiffened with gum. His new drink became known as grog.

The use of grog in place of beer played an unseen role during the eighteenth century in establishing British supremacy at sea. One of the main causes of death among sailors at the time was scurvy, a wasting disease that is now known to be caused by a lack of vitamin C. The best way to prevent it, discovered and forgotten many times during the eighteenth century, was to administer regular doses of lemon or lime juice. The inclusion of lemon or lime juice in grog, made compulsory in 1795, therefore reduced the incidence of scurvy dramatically. And since beer contains no vitamin C, switching from beer to grog made British crews far healthier overall.

Its immediate significance was as a currency, for it closed the triangle linking spirits, slaves, and sugar. Rum could be used to buy slaves, with which to produce sugar, the leftovers of which could be made into rum to buy more slaves, and so on and on.

By 1721 one English trader reported that rum had become the “chief barter” on the slave coast of Africa, even for gold.

Brandy helped to kick-start the transatlantic trade in sugar and slaves, but rum made it self-fueling and far more profitable.

rum was the result of the convergence of materials, people, and technologies from around the world, and the product of several intersecting historical forces. Sugar, which originated in Polynesia, had been introduced to Europe by the Arabs, taken to the Americas by Columbus, and cultivated by slaves from Africa. Rum distilled from its waste products was consumed both by European colonists and by their slaves in the New World. It was a drink that owed its existence to the buccaneering enterprise of the Age of Exploration; but it would not have existed without the cruelty of the slave trade, from which Europeans deliberately averted their gaze for so long. Rum was the liquid embodiment of both the triumph and the oppression of the first era of globalization.

Rum quickly established itself as the North American colonists’ favorite drink.

From the late seventeenth century, rum formed the basis of a thriving industry, as New England merchants—primarily in Salem, Newport, Medford, and Boston—began to import raw molasses rather than rum and do the distilling themselves. The resulting rum was not thought to be as good as West Indies rum, but it was even cheaper, which was what mattered to most drinkers. Rum became the most profitable manufactured item produced in New England.

In addition to selling rum for local consumption, the New England distillers found a ready market among slave traders, for whom rum had become the preferred form of alcoholic currency with which to purchase slaves on Africa’s west coast.

The New England distillers’ use of French molasses added insult to injury. The British producers called for government intervention, and in 1733 a new law, known as the Molasses Act, was passed in London.

number of distilleries making rum in Boston grew from eight in 1738 to sixty-three in 1750.

Although the Molasses Act was not enforced, it was resented. Passing the law was a colossal blunder on the part of the British government. By making smuggling socially acceptable, it undermined respect for British law in general and set a vital precedent: Henceforth, the colonists felt entitled to defy other laws that imposed seemingly unreasonable duties on items shipped to and from the colonies. As a result, the widespread defiance of the Molasses Act was an early step along the road to American independence.

subsequent step occurred with the passage of the Sugar Act in 1764, at the end of the French and Indian War, during which British troops and American colonists fought together to defeat the French.

Many Americans, not just those whose livelihoods were affected by the act, regarded it as unfair that they should have to pay taxes to a distant parliament where they had no representation. The cry of “no taxation without representation” became a popular slogan. Advocates of independence, known as the “Sons of Liberty,” began to mobilize public opinion in favor of a break with Britain.

The Sugar Act was followed by a series of other unpopular laws, including the Stamp Act of 1765, the Townshend Acts of 1767, and the Tea Act of 1773. The result was the Boston Tea Party of 1773, in

John Adams, by then one of the country’s founding fathers, wrote to a friend: “I know not why we should blush to confess that molasses was an essential ingredient in American independence. Many great events have proceeded from much smaller causes.”

As settlers moved westward, away from the eastern seaboard, they switched to drinking whiskey, distilled from fermented cereal grains.

Whiskey could be made almost anywhere and did not depend on imported ingredients that could be taxed or blockaded.

Whiskey took on the duties that had previously been fulfilled by rum. It was a compact form of wealth: A packhorse could carry four bushels of grain but could carry twenty-four bushels once they had been distilled into whiskey. Whiskey was used as a rural currency, traded for other essentials such as salt, sugar, iron, powder, and shot.

the suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion, the first tax protest to take place since independence, forcefully illustrated that federal law could not be ignored, and was a defining moment in the early history of the United States.

Irish rebels moved farther west into the new state of Kentucky. There they began to make whiskey from corn as well as rye. The production of this new kind of whiskey was pioneered in Bourbon County, so that the drink became known as bourbon. The use of corn, an indigenous crop, gave it a unique flavor.

Indian assumption that spirits, like indigenous hallucinogenic plants, had supernatural powers that the drinker could only access by allowing himself to become completely intoxicated.

Rather than suppressing the brandy trade, local French troops regarded the maintenance of supply, both for themselves and for sale to the Indians, as their main duty.

Distilled drinks, alongside firearms and infectious diseases, helped to shape the modern world by helping the inhabitants of the Old World to establish themselves as rulers of the New World.

Coffee came to be regarded as the very antithesis of alcohol, sobering rather than intoxicating, heightening perception rather than dulling the senses and blotting out reality.

Similarly, doctors in Marseilles, where France’s first coffeehouse had opened in 1671, attacked coffee on health grounds at the behest of wine merchants who feared for their livelihood.

Johann Sebastian Bach wrote a “Coffee Cantata”

First to break the Arab monopoly were the Dutch, who displaced the Portuguese as the dominant European nation in the East Indies during the seventeenth century, gaining control of the spice trade in the process and briefly becoming the world’s leading commercial power.

Descendants of de Clieu’s original plant were also proliferating in the region, in Haiti, Cuba, Costa Rica, and Venezuela. Ultimately, Brazil became the world’s dominant coffee supplier, leaving Arabia far behind.

Europe’s coffeehouses functioned as information exchanges for scientists, businessmen, writers, and politicians.

After the establishment of the London penny post in 1680, it became a common practice to use a coffeehouse as a mailing address.

The significance of coffeehouses was most readily apparent in London, a city that, between 1680 and 1730, consumed more coffee than anywhere else on Earth.

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 establishment to the next. Collectively, Europe’s coffeehouses functioned as the Internet of the Age of Reason.

science, or “natural philosophy”

greatest book of the Scientific Revolution.

Halley wondered aloud whether the elliptical shapes of planetary orbits were consistent with a gravitational force that diminished with the inverse square of distance. Hooke declared that this was the case, and that the inverse-square law alone could account for the movement of the planets, something for which he claimed to have devised a mathematical proof. But Wren, who had tried and failed to produce such a proof himself, was unconvinced. Halley later recalled that Wren offered to “give Mr Hook or me 2 months time to bring him a convincing demonstration thereof, and besides the honour, he of us that did it, should have from him a present of a book of 40 shillings.”

A few months later Halley went to Cambridge, where he visited another scientific colleague, Isaac Newton.

produce one of the greatest books in the history of science: Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica (Mathematical principles of natural philosophy), generally known as the Principia.

With the Principia, Newton at last provided a new foundation for the physical sciences to replace the discredited theories of the Greeks; he had made the universe submit to reason.

But among the successful examples, the best known began in the coffeehouse opened in London in the late 1680s by Edward Lloyd.

Lloyd began to collect and summarize this information, supplemented with reports from a network of foreign correspondents, in the form of a regular newsletter, initially handwritten and later printed and sent to subscribers.

1771 a group of seventy-nine of them collectively established the Society of Lloyds, which survives to this day as Lloyd’s of London, the world’s leading insurance market.

New Jonathan’s, it should be called The Stock Exchange, which is to be wrote over the door.” This establishment was the forerunner of the London Stock Exchange.

This period of rapid innovation in public and private finance, with the floating of joint-stock companies, the buying and selling of shares, the development of insurance schemes, and the public financing of government debt, all of which culminated in London’s eventual displacement of Amsterdam as the world’s financial center, is known today as the Financial Revolution.

The financial equivalent of the Principia was The Wealth of Nations, written by the Scottish economist Adam Smith.

It described and championed the emerging doctrine of laissez-faire capitalism, according to which the best way for governments to encourage trade and prosperity was to leave people to their own devices. Smith wrote much of his book in the British Coffee House, his base and postal address in London, and a popular meeting place for Scottish intellectuals, among whom he circulated chapters of his book for criticism and comment.

Enlightenment thought in France had flowered under thinkers, such as the philosopher and satirist Francois-Marie Arouet de Voltaire, who extended the new scientific rationalism into the social and political spheres.

Just as Newton had rebuilt physics from first principles, Locke set out to do the same for political philosophy. Men were born equal, he believed, were intrinsically good and were entitled to the pursuit of happiness. No man should interfere with another’s life, health, liberty, or possessions. Inspired by these radical ideas, Voltaire returned to France and detailed his views in a book, Lettres philosophiques, which compared the French system of government unfavorably with a somewhat idealized description of the English system. As a result, the book was immediately banned. A similar fate befell the Encyclopedic compiled by Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond d’Alembert, the first volume of which appeared in 1751.

It promoted a rational, secular view of the world founded on scientific determinism, denounced ecclesiastical and legal abuses of power, and infuriated the religious authorities, who successfully lobbied for it, too, to be banned.

Ultimately, it was at the Cafe de Foy, on the afternoon of July 12, 1789, that a young lawyer named Camille Desmoulins set the French Revolution in motion.

The French historian Jules Michelet subsequently observed that those “who assembled day after day in the Cafe de Procope saw, with penetrating glance, in the depths of their black drink, the illumination of the year of the revolution.”

Intertwined with Britain’s emergence as the first global superpower was its pioneering adoption of a new system of manufacturing. Workers were brought together in large factories where tireless labor-saving machines driven by steam engines amplified human skill and effort—a cluster of innovations collectively known today as the Industrial Revolution.

Tea provided the basis for the widening of European trade with the East. Profits from its trade helped to fund the advance into India of the British East India Company, the commercial organization that became Britain’s de facto colonial government in the East. Having started as a luxury drink, tea trickled down to become the beverage of the working man, the fuel for the workers who operated the new machine-powered factories.

English drink initially had to be imported at great cost and effort from China, that vast and mysterious dominion on the other side of the world, and that the cultivation and processing of tea were utter mysteries to its European drinkers.

The story of tea is the story of imperialism, industrialization, and world domination, one cup at a time.

So tea was a medicine and a foodstuff before it was a drink.

Both Buddhist and Taoist monks found that drinking tea was an invaluable aid to meditation, since it enhanced concentration and banished fatigue—qualities that are now known to be due to the presence of caffeine.

Its powerful antiseptic properties meant it was safer to drink than previous beverages such as rice or millet beer, even if the water was not properly boiled during preparation.

It was, in effect, an efficient and convenient water-purification technology that dramatically reduced the prevalence of waterborne diseases, reducing infant mortality and increasing longevity.

Making tea became an honor reserved for the head of the household; an inability to make tea well, in an elegant manner, was considered a disgrace.

Under Genghis Khan and his sons, they established the largest connected land empire in history, encompassing much of the Eurasian landmass, from Hungary in the west to Korea in the east, and as far south as Vietnam.

The idea of the tea ceremony was, however, taken to its greatest heights in Japan.

the whole ceremony should take place in a teahouse situated in an appropriately laid-out garden.

This first tea was green tea, the kind that had always been consumed by the Chinese.

Tea got its start when it became fashionable at the English court following the marriage in 1662 of Charles II to Catherine of Braganza, daughter of King John IV of Portugal. Her enormous dowry included the Portuguese trading posts of Tangier and Bombay, the right to trade with Portuguese possessions overseas, a fortune in gold, and a chest of tea.

Catherine of Braganza, the wife of Charles II, introduced tea to the English court.

the second factor in the rise of tea was the role of the British East India Company, which had been granted a monopoly on imports to England from the East Indies. Though it initially lacked direct access to China, the company’s records show that it began to bring in small quantities of “good thea” from the Netherlands during the 1660s as gifts for the king, to ensure that he would “not find himself totally neglected by the Company.”

This and other gifts won Charles’s favor, and he gradually granted sweeping powers to the company, including the rights to acquire territory, issue currency, maintain an army, form alliances, declare war and make peace, and dispense justice. Over the course of the next century, what had started out as a simple trading company ended up as the manifestation of British power in the East, wielding more power than any other commercial organization in history.

Only when the company established trading posts in China in the early eighteenth century, and began direct imports of tea, did volumes increase and prices fall, making tea available to a far wider public.

At its height, tea represented more than 60 percent of the company’s total trade, and the duty on tea accounted for around 10 percent of British government revenue.

In 1717 Thomas Twining, the proprietor of a London coffeehouse, opened a shop next door specifically to sell tea, and to women in particular.

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.

Another innovation in the serving of tea was the emergence of the tea gardens of London.

The first to open, in 1732, was Vauxhall Gardens, a park with lit walkways, bandstands, performers of all kinds, and stalls selling food and drink, primarily bread and butter to be washed down with tea.

The rise of tea was entangled with the growth of Britain as a world power and set the stage for further expansion of its commercial and imperial might.

1768. This mill so impressed two wealthy businessmen that they gave Arkwright the funds to build a far larger one on a river at Cromford, where the spinning frames would be powered by a waterwheel. Here, at the first modern factory,

Factory workers had to function like parts in a well-oiled machine, and tea was the lubricant that kept the factories running smoothly.

The natural antibacterial properties of tea were also an advantage, since they reduced the prevalence of waterborne disease, even when the water used to make tea had not been properly boiled.

Infants benefited too, since the antibacterial phenolics in tea pass easily into the breast milk of nursing mothers. This lowered infant mortality and provided a large labor pool just as the Industrial Revolution took hold.

The most famous of the Staffordshire potters was Josiah Wedgwood, whose company produced tea services so efficiently that it could compete with Chinese porcelain, imports of which declined and eventually stopped in 1791.

Wedgwood also pioneered the use of celebrity endorsements to promote his products: When Queen Charlotte, the wife of George III, ordered “a complete sett of tea things,” he secured her permission to sell similar items to the public under the name “Queen’s ware.”

the same time, the marketing of tea was also becoming more sophisticated; the names of Richard Twining (son of Thomas) and other tea merchants became well known. Twining put up a specially designed sign over the door of his shop in 1787 and labeled his tea with the same design, which is now thought to be the oldest commercial logo in continuous use in the world.

The marketing of tea and tea paraphernalia laid the first foundations of consumerism.

The political power of the British East India Company, the organization that supplied Britain’s tea, was vast. At its height the company generated more revenue than the British government and ruled over far more people, while the duty on the tea it imported accounted for as much as 10 percent of government revenue. All this gave the company both direct and indirect influence over the policies of the most powerful nation on Earth. The company had many friends in high places, and many of its officials simply bought their way into Parliament. Supporters of the East India Company also cooperated on occasion with politicians with interests in the West Indies; the demand for West Indian sugar was driven by the consumption of tea. All this ensured that in many cases company policy became government policy.

And in 1813, as enthusiasm for Adam Smith’s advocacy of free trade gained ground, the company’s monopoly on Asian trade was removed, except for China.

The problem, from the British point of view, was that the Chinese were not interested in trading tea in return for European goods. One notable exception, during the eighteenth century, had been clocks and clockwork toys, or automata, the production of which was one of the rare areas where European technological expertise visibly outstripped that of the Chinese.

So the company set about increasing the production of opium in order to use it in place of silver to buy tea. It would then, in effect, be able to grow as much currency as it needed.

Exports of opium to China increased 250-fold to reach 1,500 tons a year in 1830. Its sale produced enough silver to pay for Britain’s tea; more than enough, indeed, since the value of China’s opium imports exceeded those of its tea exports from 1828. The silver traveled by a circuitous route: The country firms sent it back to India, where the company purchased it using bankers’ drafts drawn on London. Since the company was also the government of India, these drafts were as good as cash. The silver was then shipped to London and passed to company agents, who took it all the way back to Canton to buy tea. Although China illegally produced as much opium, at the time, as was imported, that is no justification for state-sanctioned drug running on a massive scale, which created thousands of addicts and blighted countless lives merely to maintain Britain’s supply of tea.

The Opium War of 1839-42 was short and one-sided, due to the superiority of European weapons, which came as a complete surprise to the Chinese. In the first skirmish alone, in July 1839, two British warships defeated twenty-nine Chinese ships. On land, the Chinese and their medieval weapons were no match for British troops armed with state-of-the-art muskets. By the middle of 1842 British troops had seized Hong Kong, taken control of the key river deltas, and occupied Shanghai and several other cities. The Chinese were forced to sign a peace treaty that granted Hong Kong to the British, opened five ports for the free trade of all goods, and required the payment of reparations to the British in silver, including compensation for the opium that had been destroyed by Commissioner Lin.

The independence of America and the ruin of China; such was the legacy of tea’s influence on British imperial policy and, through it, on the course of world history.

The East India Company was reluctant to investigate other sources of supply, since it did not wish to undermine the value of its trade monopoly with China.

With the cultivation of tea in India, imperialism and industrialism were to go hand in hand.

tea plantation in India in 1880. By this time, tea could be produced more cheaply in India than in China.

starting in the 1870s its processing could be. A succession of increasingly elaborate machines automated the rolling, drying, sorting, and packing of tea. Industrialization reduced costs dramatically: In 1872 the production cost of a pound of tea was roughly the same in India and China. By 1913 the cost of production in India had fallen by three-quarters. Meanwhile, railways and steamships reduced the cost of transporting the tea to Britain. The Chinese export producers were doomed.

Britain imported thirty-one thousand tons of tea from China in 1859, but by 1899 the total had fallen to seven thousand tons, while imports from India had risen to nearly one hundred thousand tons.

India remains the world’s leading producer of tea today, and the leading consumer in volume terms, consuming 23 percent of world production, followed by China (16 percent) and Britain (6 percent).

The story of tea reflects the reach and power, both innovative and destructive, of the British Empire. Tea was the preferred beverage of a nation that was, for a century or so, an unrestrained global superpower. British administrators drank tea wherever they went, as did British soldiers on the battlefields of Europe and the Crimea, and British workers in the factories of the Midlands. Britain has remained a nation of tea drinkers ever since.

The preindustrial way to make something was for a craftsman to work on it from start to finish. The British industrial approach was to divide up the manufacturing process into several stages, passing each item from one stage to the next, and using laborsaving machines where possible. The American approach went even farther by separating manufacturing from assembly. Specialized machines were used to crank out large numbers of interchangeable parts, which were then assembled into finished products. This approach became known as the American system of manufactures, starting with guns, and then applied to sewing machines, bicycles, cars, and other products. It was the foundation of America’s industrial might, since it made possible the mass production and mass marketing of consumer goods, which quickly became an integral part of the American way of life.

And the nation’s railway and telegraph networks, which spread across the country after the end of the Civil War in 1865, made the whole country into a single market.

By 1900 the American economy had overtaken Britain’s to become the largest on Earth.

The rise of America, and the globalization of war, politics, trade, and communications during the twentieth century, are mirrored by the rise of Coca-Cola, the world’s most valuable and widely recognized brand, which is universally regarded as the embodiment of America and its values.

Since Atlanta was a major hub on the nation’s railway network, distribution was not a problem. And pharmacists liked the drink because it was profitable: Each five-cent Coca-Cola they sold only required one cent’s worth of syrup, and most of the rest was pure profit. The Coca-Cola Company, in turn, could make the syrup for around three-quarters of a cent per drink, so it made a profit on every drink sold too.

The New York Times reported on November 27, 1927 that “a standardized Santa Claus appears to New York children. . . . Height, weight, stature are almost exactly standardized, as are the red garments, the hood and the white whiskers. . . . The pack full of toys, ruddy cheeks and nose, bushy eyebrows and a jolly, paunchy effect are also inevitable parts of the requisite makeup.” Putting Santa in its advertisements, however, enabled the company to appeal directly to children, and to associate its drink with fun and merriment.

Here was a hot-weather drink that still sold in the winter, a nonalcoholic drink that could hold its own against alcoholic beverages, a drink that made caffeine consumption universal, and an affordable treat that maintained its appeal even in an economic downturn.

by the time of the outbreak of World War II, Coca-Cola only became a truly global brand in the wake of America’s emergence as a global superpower, with the abandonment of its longtime policy of isolationism.

Believers in globalization argue that abolishing trade barriers, tariffs, and other obstacles to free and unfettered international commerce is the best way to improve the fortunes of rich and poor countries alike. By setting up factories in the developing world, for example, companies from rich countries can reduce their costs, while also creating jobs and boosting the economy in the poorer countries where they set up shop. Opponents of globalization complain that such practices are exploitative, since they create low-wage, low-status jobs; multinational companies are also able to exploit looser labor and environmental regulations by shifting jobs overseas.

But an oft-heard complaint, as companies spread their tentacles around the world and compete on a global playing field, is that globalization is merely a new form of imperialism.

Today, carbonated soft drinks are the most widely consumed beverages in the United States, accounting for around 30 percent of all liquid consumption, and the Coca-Cola Company is the biggest single supplier of such drinks. Globally, the company supplies 3 percent of humanity’s total liquid intake.

Indeed, nowhere is the gulf between the developed and developing worlds more apparent than in their attitudes toward water.

Stop at a filling station in the United States, and you will find that bottled water, ounce for ounce, costs more than gasoline. Mineral waters from specific sources, from France

as much as 40 percent of the bottled water sold in the United States is, in fact, derived from tap water, though it is usually filtered and may have extra minerals added.

fifth of the world’s population, or around 1.2 billion people, currently lack reliable access to safe drinking water. The World Health Organization estimates that 80 percent of all illness in the world is due to waterborne diseases, and that at any given time, around half of the people in the developing world are suffering from diseases associated with inadequate water or sanitation, such as diarrhea, hookworm, or trachoma.

Widespread illness makes countries less productive, more dependent on outside aid, and less able to lift themselves out of poverty. According to the United Nations,

Water was, for example, an important unseen factor behind the Six Day War of 1967, when Israel occupied Sinai, the Golan Heights, the West Bank, and Gaza. Ariel Sharon, who was a general at the time and later became Israel’s prime minister, noted in his autobiography that although people usually regard June 5, 1967, as the start of the Six Day War, “in reality, it started two and a half years earlier, on the day Israel decided to act against the diversion of the Jordan.” In 1964 Syria had started building a canal to divert two of the main tributaries of the Jordan River away from Israel. Using a combination of artillery and air strikes, Israel brought work on the canal to a halt. “While the border disputes between Syria and ourselves were of great significance, the matter of water diversion was a stark issue of life and death,” wrote Sharon.

In 1978 Egypt threatened military action against Ethiopia if it interfered with the flow of the Nile, Egypt’s chief water supply.

Many observers have, therefore, suggested that water might replace oil as the scarce commodity most likely to trigger international conflict.