Cordoba, a city located in what what is now Southern Spain was widely considered to be the most cultured city in Western Europe and was described as “the jewel of the world.” by one Hroswitha, a German chronicler. Cordoba’s renown was due to a variety of factors, including its unique parks, palaces, paved roads, and oil lamps. The city was huge, and hosted over seven hundred mosques, three hundred public baths, and even harbored an extensive drainage and sewage system. Despite the many luxuries present within the city perhaps the most impressive of these are the libraries one available to the public and contained nearly half a million books (p.93).
The city widely regarded as a learning center among the world was renowned for its extraordinary invention of the distillation technique which birthed a wide range of new drinks for the people to enjoy. The process begins with the vaporization and condensation of a liquid in which is utilized in such a manner that it separates and purifies its constituent parts. Distillation became commonplace until Arab scholar Jabir ibn Hayyan, devised an improved version of distillation apparatus, which then took the place of the inferior variant. The distillation of wine makes it much stronger, which was part of why distillation was widely practiced. Knowledge of distillation was considered to be ancient wisdom that was so important to the arab people it was preserved and extended by Arab scholars, and helped to rekindle the spirit of learning in the west after being translated to latin (p. 95). Distilled wine came to be known as “alcohol of wine.”
Distilled drinks became popular because of their extremely strong intoxicating effects being able to be stored durably and compactly for transport which made trade much easier and for it’s apparent “medicinal properties” utilized by the doctors of one Charles II of Navarre otherwise known as “Charles the Bad” in 1386 after learning of the distillation from arabic texts opted for a new medicine-distilled wine. Many other doctors at the time advocated for distilled wine as a highly effective medicinal remedy for the fight nerve disease and being able to cure multiple other diseases. Despite the renown gained as a medicinal practice it later became widely used as a recreational drink.
The emergence of new distilled drinks coincided with that of European explorers first opening up the world’s sea routes, beginning with Portuguese explorers colonizing Western Africa and laid the foundation of the discovery of America. The purpose of these expeditions was to circumvent the Arab monopoly on the spice trade (p. 101). This lead to the discovery of sugarcane along the Atlantic islands of Madeira, the Azores, and the Canaries, a crop that required immense manpower to cultivate and harvest in large quantities which led to the first use of large scale slavery since Roman times. Wide scale slavery continued to be widely used throughout the 16th century when Britain, Holland, Spain, and France joined Portugal in the exploitation and exploration of the New World, these nations all used a similar currency at the time to trade with Africa for slaves: Wine and Brandy. Standage argues that brandy got the slave trade started.
Colonists started experimenting with sugar to create new types of spirits, one such new type of spirit: Rum was served to many slave traders and was a popular drink for many sailors and was used to create a sort of “triangle of trade” between Europe, Africa, and the Americas wherein Rum bought slaves, which then produced sugar and then rum.
(Chapter 4, Coffee in the Age of Enlightenment).
In the early 1600’s a powerful movement swept across Europe going by the name of “The Enlightenment”, influential figures like Galileo Galilei in Italy and Francis Bacon in England rejected blind faith in ancient texts in favor of a scientific ideology based upon facts, reason, and experimentation (p. 133). Bacon declared things such as “There is no hope of any major increase in scientific knowledge by grafting or adding the new on top of the old.” in his book The New Logic (p. 134). Over the next two centuries this ideology became mainstream in the West which began “The Age of Enlightenment” this movement was followed closely by the spread of a new drink called coffee. It’s consumption rate overtook that of regular beer and wine as Standage puts it Europe emerged from a centuries old drunken haze(p. 136), as coffee was praised for its ability to grant the drinker a sense of clarity and distinguish, alongside these beneficial effects you were considered to be an intellectual person if you were seen drinking coffee.
Coffee originating from the Arab world was well known for its stimulating effect, had many folktales of coffee and it’s origin such as an Ethiopian goatherd who noticed his flock became energetic after consuming a strange brownish purple bean, which upon trying to eat one himself noted their stimulating effect. Upon this exciting discovery he brought the information to a local holy man who devised a new way to prepare the bean into a drink, and so is the origin of coffee. Coffee was widely considered a social drink as opposed to that of an religious drink as it was sold in the market streets. It was considered a legal alternative to alcohol by many Muslims, whilst Coffee Houses, unlike that of taverns where considered places of gathering for respected individuals (p. 138). The stimulating effects of coffee became the subject of much controversy between Muslim holy men as many argued that it’s effects were intoxicating and no better than beer. While others argued it brought a man closer to god.
Muslims were not the only religious group up in arms about coffee as Christians abhorred coffee as it was viewed as a drink for pagans and Muslims, but Pope Clement VIII changed the outlook on Coffee that many Christians stood by to a positive outlook by claiming it was a delicious beverage. Many Christians taking the pope’s advice began to regularly consume coffee which increased the spread and influence of the drink throughout Europe. Through the 17th and 18th century Holland, France, and England establish Coffee plantation in their new colonies. Which further increased the popularity of coffee.
In the 17th century businessmen would walk down to a Coffeehouse to hear about the latest business news, political information and inquiry about the opinions of others regarding the latest books or scientific discoveries. The 19th Century historian Thomas Macaulay argued that in the 1700’s one was defined not by where they lived or worked, but, by the Coffee houses they regularly attended. Standage argues that Coffee houses were The Internet of the Age of Enlightenment. The Coffee houses were places of equality (excluding women and the poor) the wealthy had no more voice than the poor and allowed most relatively wealthy men to explore their own intellectual interests (p. 157). The very first Coffeehouse ever established in Western Europe was built on the grounds of the University of Oxford which created a relation between coffee and intellectuality and Scholars. Some of the Greatest books of the Age of Enlightenment were published because of Coffeehouses and the Intellectual conversations held within them, including Newton’s Principia, and Smith’s The Wealth of Nations. Along with some of the greatest books being created because of Coffee houses some of the greatest minds of The Age of Enlightenment also met and conversed including, Halley, Wren, Newton, and Hooke. Standage argues that even today coffee is linked with Intellectuality as Seattle is considered the Coffee capital of America and is a host to many of today’s internet, software, and online server companies.
(Section 5, Tea and the British Empire).
At its height sometime during the 18’th century Britain was considered the most powerful Nation in the world as it encompassed a fifth of the world’s surface and contained a quarter of its population (p. 175). Despite losing it’s hold on the America’s via the American Revolution Britain continued to expand its sphere of influence through areas such as India, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, establishing Britain as the first Global superpower. Tea, standage argues linked this colonial and industrial power together (p. 176).Tea associated as it was with civilization and culture was a perfect drink for the Industrious British Empire, as it was commonly associated as a drink for the working man and fuel for workers who operated in the Newly built factories (p.176).
Tea, was supposedly invented by Chinese emperor Shen Nung, sometime during 2737-2697 BCE. He was said to have invented the of the plow and other agricultural tools along with discovering many medicinal herbs. Tea having started out as a religious and medicinal beverage spread throughout China and became a national beverage beloved by all during the time of the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE) and is associated with the golden age in Chinese history, it holds great cultural significance in Chinese culture.
Tea helped bring about large amounts of trade between many Asian nations and became a common drink between many of the nations including India, Japan, and Korea. This helped forge political bonds between many of the nations that have lasted for hundreds of years. Tea also heavily impacted the economy as the frequency of trade regarding tea increased exponentially as more and more people began to drink it, and it was even used as a form of currency.