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A History of the World in 6 Glasses Essay

Section 1:

Beer: Beer was not invented, it was discovered. Exactly when the first beer was brewed is unknown but there was almost certainly no beer before 10,000 BCE. The rise of beer was closely associated with the domestication of the cereal grains rom which it is made and the adoption of farming. Beer originated in the Fertile Crescent in Egypt and Mesopotamia. To beer drinkers in the Neolithic period, beer’s ability to intoxicate and induce a state of altered consciousness seemed magical. This caused them to believe beer was a gift from the Gods. Since it was a gift from the gods, it was presented as a religious offering in religious ceremonies, agricultural fertility rites, and in funerals by the Sumerians and Egyptians. One turning point in history is that beer might have played a role in the adoption of agriculture, according to some anthropologists.

Wine: The origin of wine is lost in prehistory: its invention or discovery was so ancient that it is recorded only indirectly, in myth and legend. Archaeological evidence suggests that wine was first produced during the Neolithic period, between 9000 and 4000 BCE. It was produced in the Zagros Mountains because three factors in that particular area made wine production possible: the presence of the wild Eurasian grape wine, the availability of cereal crops to provide year-round food reserves for wine-making communities, and the invention of pottery around 6000 BCE. Wine became to be seen as a social and religious beverage and started to become fashionable throughout the Near East and eastern Mediterranean. Wine production switched from subsistence to industrial farming and started to be produced specifically as a commercial product, instead of being consumed by the farmer and his dependents. For the Greeks, the kind of wine you drank and its age indicated how cultured you are. In Rome wine started to be a symbol of social differentiation, a mark of wealth and status of the drinker. Spirits: The process of distillation was refined and popularized in the city of Cordoba. Distilled drinks became economic goods of such significance that their taxation and control became matters of great political importance and helped to determine the course of history. Arnald of Villanova was a firm believer in the therapeutic power of distilled wine and produced instructions for distilling wine around 1300. It was a miraculous medicine called aqua vitae, “water of life.”

In September, 1647, Richard Ligon caught first glimpse of the Caribbean island of Barbados from the deck of his ship Achilles. On this island brandy and rum were very popular liquor found there. Rum was used as a currency to buy slaves so they could produce sugar and the leftovers could be made into rum to buy more slaves. Unlike beer or wine, rum was the result of convergence of materials, people, and technologies from around the world, and the product of several intersecting historical forces. Rum was the drink of the colonial period and the American Revolution but it changed in favor of another distilled drink, whiskey.

Coffee: Coffee, which was introduced to Europe during the seventeenth century, was the preferred drink of scientists, intellectuals, merchants, and clerks because it promoted sharpness and clarity of thought. Coffee originated in the Arab world and has several romantic stories of its discovery. This drink was originally associated with religion but then became a social drink. It was embraced as a legal alternative to alcohol by many Muslims. Coffeehouses were established and functioned as information exchanges for scientists, business men, writers, and politicians. Coffeehouses became associated with specific trades, acting as meeting places where actors, musicians, or sailors could go if they were looking for work. Today, the consumption of coffee is so widespread that the impact of coffee’s introduction and the appeal of the first coffeehouse are difficult to imagine. Today coffee still remains the drink over which people meet to discuss, develop, and exchanged ideas and information.

Tea: Tea began as a luxury drink, and then trickled down to become the beverage of the working man. The story of tea is the story of imperialism, industrialization, and world domination. According to Chinese tradition, the first cup of tea was brewed by the emperor Shen Nung. Before tea was a beverage, it was used for medicinal purposes and foodstuff. Tea became a daily drink in China around the third century A.D. As the Industrial Revolution of 18th and 19th centuries gained steam, tea provided some of the fuel. Factory workers stayed alert during long, monotonous shifts thanks to welcome tea breaks. The beverage also had unintended health benefits for rapidly growing urban areas. Chewing leaves and rubbing them on wounds were ways that tea was used for medicinal purposes.

Coca-Cola- In May 1886 John Pemberton invented a drink, Coca-Cola, by accidentally stumbling on the right combination of ingredients while trying to devise a cure for headaches. Pemberton was an experienced maker of patient medicines, which were hugely popular in America in the late nineteenth century. The name was coined by one of Pemberton’s business associates, Frank Robinson. He also contributed to the promotion of the drink by sending out tickets for free samples and putting up posters and banners that read “Drink Coca-Cola, 5c.” Robinson also developed the famous logo for Coca-Cola, which appeared in newspaper advertisements on June 16, 1887. Today this soft drink is one of the world’s most valuable brands. It is the second most widely understood phrase in the world after “OK” according to Standage. Coca-Cola is “globalization in a bottle.” It promoted the rise of consumer capitalism and the emergence of America as a superpower. Epilogue: Six beverages have defined humankind’s past, but which will embody its future? Water is the drink that has emerged as the most likely candidate. It is highly fashionable, the subject of conflicting medicinal claims, and has far-reaching geopolitical significance. This is the drink that first steered the course of human development. In previous centuries, it was unknown how to purify water. As water is growing to be more popular, the danger of contaminated is receding. Today tap water is now just as safe as bottled water is. For many people in the developing world, access to water remains a matter of life or death. Around 1.2 billion people lack reliable access to safe drinking water. The World Health Organization estimates that 80% of all illnesses in the world are due to waterborne diseases. Water was the first drink to steer the course of human history and after ten thousand years, it seems to be back in the driving seat.

Section 2:


1) Beer became socially and ritually important to hunter-gathers so in order to ensure the availability of grain, hunter-gathers switched to farming. Beer is what helped to make up for the decline in food quality as people took up farming.

2) Beer tells us that man’s first civilizations where founded on surplus cereal production, much of which was brewed.

3) The author uses many books to gather information on beer. Some of these books are: Guns, Germs, and Steel; Bread and Beer; Brewing an Ancient Beer; Alcohol and Its Alternatives; etc.

4) Beer was considered a sacred drink that was offered to the Gods. This beverage was used for pleasure, nutrition, medicine, ritual, remuneration and funerary purposes, especially in ancient Egypt.

5) Beer was the cause of people to switch from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to an agricultural lifestyle. Becoming an agriculturally based society allowed people to become more civilized because it allowed them to have larger civilizations and a constant food supply.

6) Beer caused people to change to agriculture instead of hunting and gathering. Because of this, societies became more civilized which lead to writing, commerce, and better health. More jobs became available which caused better commerce and people were eating more nutritionally due to agriculture.


1) Beer was for common folk and wine for the ‘important’ people. Beer was used as a source of barter for tradesmen and was considered an important food source.

2) Wine was used to determine someone’s social status in Greece. The older the wine, the better status you had.

3) Homer’s Odyssey, written in the eighth century BCE, is what caused wine to develop as a social status in Greece. This was because in the book when the strong room of the mythical hero Odysseus is being described, Homer says “where piled- up gold and bronze was lying and clothing in chests and plenty of good smelling oil: and it stood jars of old sweet tasting wine, with the unmixed divine drink in them, packed in tows against the wall.”

4) The Greeks mixed water with wine before consumption. They believed that only Dionysus could drink wine without being mixed, which shows their culture believes strongly in the Greek Gods Powers.

5) In Roman culture wine was viewed as a necessity for everyday life and not just a luxury meant to be enjoyed by a few as the Greeks believed.

6) Wine was often found in royal families and was a part of religion because the Greeks only believed that the god Dionysus could drink pure wine without any risk. It was also used as medicine because it helps with heart disease.


1) The origin of spirits was developed by the Arabs, which made it from distilling wine.

2) Once spirits became publicly known, people became manipulating it, thus creating a drink known today as “rum.” Rum is made from the waste product of sugar-production. Rum could be made locally, so soon after, colonies began forming to grow sugar canes, then produce rum from it.

3) Europeans gave African tribes bottles of spirits in exchange for slaves from their tribes.

4) Spirits were used in trade, such as the exchange of spirits for slaves. Spirits was also transported throughout the world.

5) Since the British’s industry revolved around trade and exportation of goods, they were able to afford more naval combat vessels.

6) Since the Colonists of the permanent civilization of England had to deal with the hardships of disease, food shortages, infighting, and constant battles with the Indians, securing a reliable supply of alcohol assumed great importance.

7) First the importation of sugar was decreased to a minimal amount, called the Molasses Act of 1733. This angered the American Colonists because it deprived them of their favorite drink, so in return, the law was basically ignored and production and importation increased exponentially. 8) The negative effects would include the fact that its high flammable, overconsumption of a single individual could cause death. Also, it impaired decision making and visibility. The positive effects of spirits were that is was a huge influence in the slave trade, and had medicinal properties which prolonged life at the time.


1) Coffee originated by the Arabs, and thus was then introduced to Europe through trade. Once Europeans discovered its “special” ability to help focus and maintain awareness, coffee was widely loved and accepted throughout Europe.

2) Europeans preferred coffee because of its taste, and property make-up. Coffee was now known to enhance ones abilities, therefore people chose to drink coffee instead of the intoxicating alcoholic beverages, which impaired ones abilities.

3) Coffee was worth its weight in gold at the time of its discovery, and was even fought over by countries. Countries treated the coffee beans so they could not germinate, ruining other countries, who were importing these beans, from growing their own coffee beans. This helped balance the power by equal trade and distribution of coffee beans and other goods.

4) During the Age of Exploration, civilizations set out to discover and exploit nature. This led to the discovery of coffee, which was huge during the time period. Coffee was considered one of the greatest discoveries of mankind, primarily because of its reverse effects of alcohol.

5) Since the discovery of coffee, governments used this as a way to increase taxes by simply putting large taxations on coffee by the gallons. This increased wealth of countries, primarily England and helped enforce equal distribution of wealth.

6) Coffee was widely known and appreciated by the French and the English. This created a “want” effect on coffee and soon every country in Europe wanted it. Since this took place, France privatized it industry of coffee and grew its own coffee beans and production of coffee.


1) Tea became a mainstream drink once Shen Nung discovered it and spread his discovery throughout Asia. Tea became mainstream in Europe once Catherine of Braganza introduced tea to the English court.

2) Tea for Europeans was considered a drink for the working man and the affluent. However, in China and Japan tea was used for all sorts of purposes such as medicinal and chewing.

3) At first Europeans found that coffee was more beneficial than tea was. This was due to the fact Europeans had higher demands for coffee than tea at the time because countries that were not within trade routes of China at the time did know where it was located and convinced people that coffee was the new and best discovery of the time period.

4) Based on Chinese culture, their intentions in the creation of goods were meant to influence harmony between individuals and nature. Thus changing the English society into more peaceful members of the British civilization. The British were tea’s main consumers, which led to the basic cultural rituals of making small talk with individuals and groups of people at tea making stores.

5) Teas provided the basis for building manufacturing plants to process evergreen and turn it into tea ingredients which were then sold to the public. 6) Tea provided foundation for manufacturing, but also the foundation for creating trading routes with China. At the time China was very private and isolated, so the Chinese was not influenced to adjust their cultural ways. So a very important agreement between the Portuguese helped settle on the agreement to create a trade route.

7) Opium was a herb much like the modern day marijuana, and gave people “visions.” Along with opium, tea was also an herb, which today is considered a stimulant. The Opium war was ceased when an agreement was made to replace opium with tea herbs instead. 8) Tea is native to India and is almost a necessity for the people in Britain where it cannot be grown. When the British had colonies in India they also established a highly successful trade network they called the East India Company. The British had a massive merchant and military spread across the world so it was easy to transport luxury goods like tea back to Britain and other British territory where it was worth much more.

Coca –Cola-

1) The origin on Coca-Cola was extract of coca leaves and kola nuts.

2) This beverage was used as medicine for headaches. Its additives were coca leaves, which contained small traces of cocaine and kola, which contains caffeine.

3) When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, America sent its armed forces out into the world for WW2, and Coca-Cola went along with them. As the country mobilized, the president of the Coca-Cola Company issued an order that “every man in uniform gets a bottle of Coca-Cola for five cents.”

4) Coca-Cola was seen as ‘too American’ for Communists. Georgy Konstantinovivh Zhukov, the Soviet Union’s greatest military leader, made the unusual request for Coca-Cola to be made without coloring to resemble the traditional Russian drink, Vodka.

5) “Globalization in a bottle” means that Coca-Cola spread worldwide and was famous all over. It promoted the rise of consumer capitalism and the emergence of America as a superpower. 6) Coca-Cola became seen as an American value because it was sent overseas with our troops and became popular in other countries. This caused the company to get more profit, but hurt America because anti-globalizationists say that the U.S. is invading the rest of the world with its culture, companies, and brands.


1) Scientific advancements in the 19th century made new drinks possible such as soda and spirits. All drinks trace back full circle to the start of this process, water. The process of distillation made creating spirits possible and carbonating water made soda possible.

2) The quality of tap water is more stringently controlled then the quality of bottled water.

3) A fifth of the world’s population currently lack reliable access to safe drinking water.

4) Disputes over water rights may cause political tension and military conflict internationally.

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