I just finished reading Tom Standage's A History of the World in 6 Glasses. The book is an entertaining and highly informative romp through world history highlighting six distinct beverages that have influenced the course of time.
Beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and soda.
If anything, the book makes you appreciate your favorite beverage even more. I'm a certified beer geek. I make my own beer and scoff at certain restaurants if their idea of "good" beer is an Amstel Light and a Sam Adams seasonal. I especially enjoyed the chapter on beer as it discussed beer as a means of currency.
During the Neolithic Age as hunting and gathering civilizations gave way to a more agricultural way of life, grain became a symbol of wealth. Grain in turn could be turned into bread and beer. Thus, bread and beer became a form of currency. Mesopotamia and Egypt are among the cultures who used beer in this way.
Standage shows how beer, and the idea of sharing a beer quickly became rituals that many cultures shared. Wine was no different and was also a part of many rituals and activities. Namely the idea of a symposium which means "to drink together" in Greek. Symposiums were forums for men to gather and debate and discuss current events. From its introduction to Mediterranean from the Middle East by a wealthy Greek King's celebration, wine was viewed as the aristocratic drink. As a drink just a step above beer.
The chapters on coffee and tea bring even more to light. It is very interesting discovering how cultures reacted to these newly found drinks, driving some to ban the substances altogether.
I suggest getting the book and reading it for yourself.
The introductions for each chapter are brilliant in the fact that they set the scene for a time in history - the introductions themselves are great to use in the classroom. The book itself is a great hook to get kids interested in history. It is works like this that make history come alive and keep us laymen wanting more.
Read the book and use it in your classroom.