A History Of The World In 6 Glasses Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: A History Of The World In 6 Glasses will give you some great conversation starters at your next party by teaching you the origins and impact of the worlds six favorite drinks, including beer, wine, alcoholic spirits, tea, coffee, and soda.

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A History Of The World In 6 Glasses Summary

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What’s your drink of choice? Do you consider yourself a coffee aficionado who can’t get up without your morning cup of joe? Or maybe you just can’t wait to get home from work, prop your feet up in front of the TV, and crack open a can of beer.

While you’re grateful for the mental and sometimes emotional break these drinks give you, their origins might surprise you. And you might not know it, but that little cup of coffee or bottle of beer you hold has had a significant impact on history also.

That’s what Tom Standage’s A History of the World in 6 Glasses is here to teach you all about. You’ll find out the steps to discovery and development for each of these six drinks, as well as how they were drunk. Standage will also teach you the amazing changes these glasses brought in the course of human history.

Here are the 3 most interesting lessons this book taught me about drinks:

  1. Beer is much older than you might think, and had a major part in the move of our ancestors to farming instead of hunting and gathering.
  2. The Middle Ages brought the existence of coffee, which was originally most useful for intellectuals like scientists.
  3. Coca-Cola’s original purpose was medicinal, but Americans began drinking it for pleasure and it quickly spread worldwide.

Grab a glass and get ready to learn about your favorite drinks!

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Lesson 1: If it weren’t for the discovery of beer, mankind may not have become farmers as quickly.

So you might like beer, but do you know who invented it and how? The truth is, this influential drink wasn’t invented but instead discovered. To learn how, we need to take a look all the way back to about 10,000 BC, or the end of the Ice Age. 

The location is the Fertile Crescent, or what we now know as Egypt and the Middle East. The people at this time and place are producing cereal grains in large quantities. They found that malt came from soaking grains in water. Using this malt to make gruel and giving it a few days to ferment turned it into a drink that was fizzy and intoxicating. 

The taste of and feeling people got from this new drink made them want more of it. This is where the desire to settle and eventually begin agriculture began. Hunting and gathering didn’t allow humans to store food very easily. But as their want for beer and other grain products grew, the desire to have grain constantly did also. 

Not long later, mankind made the discovery that storing grains let them have a constant supply. Farming quickly became more popular, and so did beer. Eventually, the drink became a symbol of hospitality and civilized life. If it weren’t for this influential drink, the growth of Homo sapiens may have taken a lot longer.

Lesson 2: Coffee is a product of the Middle Ages, and was useful for intellectuals who didn’t want to be intoxicated all day.

Fast-forward now to the Middle Ages. As alcoholic drinks became popular, more people began drinking them throughout the day. For intellectuals this wasn’t great, but it was better than taking a risk with drinking water, which was often contaminated. Then coffee came to Europe from the Arab world and a better solution for scientists and scholars was here.

Because it requires boiling, coffee was just as safe as alcohol, but without the negative mental and emotional side-effects. Not only that, but it also had the opposite effect of making it’s consumers more alert. This was an additional benefit to merchants, clerks, scientists, and all sorts of intellectuals. 

It wasn’t long before the rise of coffeehouses began offsetting the previously popular alcoholic-centered taverns. Due to the intelligent people that often came, these places quickly became hubs for political debates. Supporters of Charles II, for example, often met to discuss helping his return to being king in 1660. Coffeehouses had a major effect on the end of Oliver Cromwell’s rule.

These places for coffee-lovers to gather may have also contributed significantly to the beginning of the French Revolution. Some say that the conversations in coffeehouses made such an impact that they were the entire reason for the fall of the French monarchy.

Lesson 3: Coca-Cola was originally medicinal but it’s use as a refreshing drink spread rapidly after Americans began drinking and sharing it regularly.

Joseph Priestly was a British clergyman and scientist who was the first to discover how to dissolve gas into water. He used this invention to create the very first carbonated soda. Because Priestly’s new product was similar to spring water, people first used it for medical purposes. But citizens of the United States began drinking it because of the unique taste.

Soda quickly took off once people saw how refreshing it was to drink. The widespread use of it grew even further with advances in bottling processes. Joseph Hawkins, a seller of soda, later found out how to dispense the tastiness in fountains. It wasn’t long before the flavor was further improved with the addition of syrups from fruit. 

That’s around when Coca-Cola came into existence. A Georgian pharmacist by the name of John Pemberton was experimenting with coca when he first created the drink we all know now. Initially he included alcohol, but changed course after the prohibition movement began to grow. 

Coca-Cola’s popularity internationally began after World War II when American troops took it around the world with them. The company used this as a marketing opportunity, declaring that anyone in uniform got a bottle for just five cents. Not much later they built bottling plants in other countries. After the war, control of these were given to locals. The sensation continued to grow rapidly into the giant that we know Coca-Cola to be today.

A History Of The World In 6 Glasses Review

While I found A History Of The World In 6 Glasses interesting, it was a little difficult to relate because I don’t consume any of these drinks. It was fascinating to learn their true origins though. It was also enjoyable to discover the hidden effect that these drinks have had on our society.

Who would I recommend the A History Of The World In 6 Glasses summary to?

The 29-year-old coffee lover who is curious about its origins and affect on humanity, the 54-year-old that can’t go without their diet coke and doesn’t know where it came from, and anyone who likes to drink beer, wine, alcoholic spirits, tea, coffee, and soda.

Last Updated on August 24, 2022

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Luke Rowley

With over 450 summaries that he contributed to Four Minute Books, first as a part-time writer, then as our full-time Managing Editor until late 2021, Luke is our second-most prolific writer. He's also a professional, licensed engineer, working in the solar industry. Next to his day job, he also runs Goal Engineering, a website dedicated to achieving your goals with a unique, 4-4-4 system. Luke is also a husband, father, 75 Hard finisher, and lover of the outdoors. He lives in Utah with his wife and 3 kids.