by Tom Standage
This is a fascinating book that covers the effects that six significant beverages have had on the shaping of history; beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and cola.
I had already known about the ancient origins of beer, but learning that wine was originally distilled by the Arabs was both enlightening and ironic. The connections to Alchemy were interesting as well.
The convolutions of how the discovery of spirits tied in with international trade in slaves, sugar and tobacco filled in some blanks in history for me as well as clarifying the origins of rum and the connection to lime juice that saved the British fleet.
The book is written in an engaging and interesting style that keeps attention and brought a few exclamations of surprise out of me at various salient points. This is the sort of history books they should have given me in school!
I had no idea that England had a culture of coffee houses in the seventeenth century. One thinks of tea in relation to England usually, so the extent to which coffee helped to shape political events was very enlightening. My one complaint is that the chapters on coffee didn't include more recent history about coffee houses in the 1950's.
I was pretty familiar with the history of the tea trade, but still the book held my attention and might have filled in some extra details.
It isn't often that I give out 5 stars, especially for non-fiction, but this is one of those rare cases where it is richly deserved.