The Drinks of Empire!
The Cuppa that travels well and better to drink alcohol than bad water
Empires come and go but what we drink seems to remain.
It is true that an army marches on its stomach in that if you don't feed it then you won't have it for very long. It is also true that what we drink says something about ourselves, our culture and, if we are part of one, our empire.
The Romans, for example, were into wine and did not do so well in parts of the world where wine is not produced. Thus wine was the drink of empire for the Romans.
I will give you 10 further examples of what I mean by drink of empire. Perhaps pure drinking water should be included because pure drinking water has been a scarce commodity in some parts of the world in the past and in some parts of the world it is now, today hard to find.
In Ian Mortimer's The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England (2009) and also in his The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England (2013) it seems best not to drink the local water when you are travelling. In both time periods the water near, in and around towns and cities is likely to be polluted. You are, in fact, better off drinking the local alcoholic brew.
Alcohol doesn't kill all germs but it will at least kill some germs. Imported alcoholic drinks might be a better bet concerning your health. Of course today in England as well as the rest of Britain great efforts are made to assure the public that the water they are expected to drink will not kill them.
There was a time in the 19th Century when tea was a precious commodity. Most middle class people in places such as England, Australia and the USA could only afford to have it on special occasions.
The precious leaves had a distance to travel before they made it into the tea pot and, until steam was added to sail, this did take quite a few months. If the seas were rough there were delays which were also costly.
Certainly the American War of independence, centuries earlier, might not have taken place without a certain tea party in Boston Harbor hosted by revolutionaries dressed up as Indians. Did they have lemon or sugar with their tea and was milk a consideration? I believe they had a preference for straight up salt water. Strange tastes these fellows had back then.
If the dumping of tea can be seen as a sign of defiance of the British Empire then tea must also be seen as having something important to do with being British or being associated with the British.
Tea is not grown commercially in Britain or, if it were to be thus grown, it would be at enormous and unprofitable cost. It was however grown within the empire and today it is grown within the commonwealth.
My grandmother, who was English, used to say that there was nothing like a strong cuppa or two to see you through the day and for her generation she was absolutely right.
Tea got the British through the 2nd World War. There's a marvelous scene in the film The Battle of Britain where a plane spotter on a roof top has a tea pot ion one hand and a mug of tea in the other.
Tea can also be seen in such films about World War Two as Sink the Bismark! and The Demi-Paradise.
Tea is part of the rituals one can observe in such British television shows as Danger UXB (Unexploded bomb) and Dad's Army. Tea gave the men a lift and also could settle nerves.
It could do this for women too as observed in the British television series Goodnight Sweetheart. This rather unusual show is set in the present but also in World War Two. Can you just imagine being married to two women at the same time who are living in two very different times? Being able to go from one time period into another can have its advantages and also its pitfalls. But you can always get a good cuppa. Well...most of the time.
Tea drinking can also be observed in early episodes of the long running Doctor Who. There's also the strange tea party Alice got involved in when it comes to one of the Alice books.
Oh, and here I am talking about the tea you find growing in Ceylon and India. There are, of course, other types such as Green tea which grows in China and Japan and is becoming more popular in the West.
Nowadays it also grows where the tea more readily enjoyed by the English also grows. There are also teas made from things such as raspberry leaves that are also becoming popular.
I became somewhat familiar with the intricacies of the Japanese tea ceremony in the television show Shintaro, The Samurai.
Generally speaking, tea gives a kick to your day and, because it contains natural aspirin, it can be an answer to a mild but nagging headache. It travels well and can be stored for a long time without losing too much of what makes it worth while.
In the 1920s experiments took place in creating a bag full of the precious leaves you could dangle in a cup or a pot containing boiled water to make your tea with less fuss and bother. This idea really took off in the '60s and is with us today. For a lot of people the old one tea spoon for everyone and one for the pot no longer applies but they still enjoy their tea.
Mind you, a lot of tea pots are sold today as novelty items and also as collectibles. The most famous of tea pot designs has the willow pattern on it which is a nice touch of the orient in something that is otherwise thoroughly British or as thoroughly British as you would want to go in a pinch.
Nowadays there's ice tea on the market for those hot summery days. There is regular British recommended ice tea and there is green ice tea.
I tend to like Earl Grey in this form because of the lemony taste. Peach mixed with ice tea is also nice.
Milk may seem an unusual drink to add to this list let alone put close to the front.There are and there have been cultures, and even civilizations, where the drinking of milk from cows, etc just was not the done thing.
To this day there are many Chinese throughout the world that are lactose intolerant. In other words it is not healthy for them to drink milk from a cow, etc. The drinking of and the supplying of milk has been one of the mainstays of Western civilization. Then there are the wonderful byproducts such as cheese, butter, ice cream and yogurt.
Yogurt was not something many Australians had dealings with until the 1960s. People from Europe new to Australia had previously been importing it into the country for their own use but that was about it.
Then in the 1960s yogurt was advertised as a good way to energize one's self and to lose weight. It was snapped up by young women who wanted to look good.
After a while men in general came to realize yogurt was also good for them, too. Nowadays Australian farmers produce a variety of great yogurts. Greek style yogurt is becoming popular.
On a personal note, my great great granddad was a 'milko' in London. He was a person with a horse and a wagon who delivered milk to homes.
Milk contains calcium and so is good for your bones.
Wonderful for the office!
Today coffee is consumed everywhere in the Western world. In Australia, over the last few decades, it has replaced tea as the preferred office drink.
People tend to think of coffee as American and that, wherever coffee goes, there you have American influence and culture. There is some truth to this. Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War were not happy drinking coffee substitutes. Coffee became the favorite drop of the American navy.
Certainly during and after the 2nd World War interest in coffee drinking in Britain and in Australia increased thanks to American soldiers bringing their coffee drinking habits to such places. American pilots may well have introduced coffee drinking to China during this period. No doubt coffee drinking in Japan took on a new popularity after the 2nd World war.
Many people have sugar in their tea or coffee as a sweetener. There was a time when the sugar trade and the slave trade went well together. Thank goodness that is no longer the case. The Americans have this thing for cream rather than milk in their coffee.
Nowadays there are many different types of coffee being served up in restaurants the world over. The Italian idea of cappuccino is very popular. I like a nice flat white, two sugars. I also like a good mocha. Some experts say a mocha has cocoa as that special ingredient but it always tastes like chocolate to me.
What people drink their coffee in varies quite a bit. The French coffee cup looks to me like a coffee bowl or something you would put your morning cereal in rather than a hot drink. The Turks have a rather small cup but that is quite understandable. Turkish coffee is very strong. Try sleeping if you have had two cups of it!
There is, of course, ice milk coffee for the warmer weather. I can't stand the stuff myself unless its a mocha (it has plenty of chocolate as well as coffee).
HOT CHOCOLATE AND ORANGE JUICE TO BUILD YOU UP IN WINTER
4. HOT CHOCOLATE
Chocolate was first introduced to Europe as a health food drink. It was sour rather than sweet until someone got the bright idea of adding sugar to the mix.
Now the hot chocolate drink is rarely thought of as a health food drink even though a little bit of chocolate in your life is actually good for you. Hot chocolate and chocolate bars suit me best in winter. In summer cold milk chocolate drinks are the go.
Hot chocolate drinking spread throughout Europe and then became popular in the USA and Australia. The ingredients for chocolate traditionally come from South America.
The Aztecs drank chocolate a long time before the West got involved with the stuff. There's an early Doctor Who adventure starring William Hartnell called The Aztecs that deals with drinking chocolate and one drinking chocolate ceremony connected to marriage.
The best drinking chocolate is said to come from Switzerland.There are those, however, who favor Belgium chocolate.
5. ORANGE JUICE
When it was discovered that oranges contain vitamin C and that vitamin C might actually help one fight off the flu, orange juice became very popular.
Today a great many oranges are produced in California, USA.Oranges are also grown in NSW, Australia.
The blood orange, named because it has red flesh, is found in Italy and Spain. It is a rather sweet orange becoming popular in Australia.
BEER AND WINE
Alcoholic drinks of one sort or another have been around for thousands of years. Beer was enjoyed by the ancient Egyptian lower classes during the days of pyramid building but there was at least one Pharaoh who preferred beer to wine.
Beer is enjoyed in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and, to some extent, in the USA. Beer, the alcoholic version, is no longer enjoyed anymore in the land of the sphinx.
Nowadays beer is considered to be very Australian. Of course the Germans could also make a similar claim. In fact many brands of beer sold and indeed made in the USA are based on German brewing techniques. In the 19th and early 20th Century brewers from German did, in fact, start up brewing businesses in the USA.
Alcoholism is a problem in all Western countries.
In the USA, back in the first half of the 20th Century, drinking alcohol was banned. This resulted in gangsters producing rough and ready alcohol, the worst of which could send the drinker blind, mad or simply send them to the morgue with a one way ticket.
It turned out to be better to have government approved drinking alcohol on the market than let the gangsters have their way.
For further information on the USA experiment in alcohol control that went wrong check out the Ken Burns documentary miniseries Prohibition.
Alcohol consumption is fine if you are sensible about how much you drink. Over doing it on weekends among the young has become a major problem of late in places such as Sydney, Australia. A deadly mix of alcohol and steroids have been connected with the increases of street violence that have resulted in deaths.
There are many versions of the grape drink that intoxicates. There are many different kinds of grape that can be made into wine.
Ancient Egyptian nobility enjoyed wine as did many an ancient Greek. Jesus was said to have once turned water into wine.
A clever French monk is said to have discovered how to put bubbles into wine and thus champagne could come into existence. Being celibate, I suppose success in such a thing was the best he could expect out of life.
The best champagne is still said to come from France even though there is some nice bubbly made in Australia and the USA.
WHISKEY, RUM, AND COCA-COLA
Whiskey has been around for centuries and the love of it can definitely mark either where you came from or where your ancestors hailed from. There is Scottish whiskey and Irish whiskey.
The Americans have developed their own and have called it bourbon. Then there is the rough as guts stuff, also American, called moonshine. Whiskey is a potent form of alcohol enjoyed, nowadays, throughout the Western world.
Whiskey should be consumed with some sense of maturity and responsibility or bad things can happen.
Back in the '70s there was a 17 years old Australian kid who, on a dare, drank a whole bottle of scotch in one go. Afterwards, he tried to catch his breath, get it back but he never did. A week later they had a funeral for him.
This is popular in the south pacific and wherever there is a good supply of sugar. Rum can give a stew a bit of a kick and goes well with coke.
Certainly it was the favored drink of British sailors and also popular among those who sailed under the Jolly Roger.
Southern Comfort is a well known American brand of Rum.
Bundaberg is a great Australian brand.
This is the brand of coke style soft drink that went with the American soldier overseas during the 2nd World War and every other war ever since.
When we think of American soft drink or what the Americans call pop either Coca-Cola or Pepsi come to mind.
Coca-Cola, however, has had the American GI seal of approval for some time now. Legend has it that it got this seal of approval during the 2nd World War.
For generations coca-Cola has been pushed as an ideal drink for teenagers. Surfers especially have been targeted in ad campaigns.
Personally I prefer Italian cola on really hot days but Coca-Cola does go well with bourbon.
Well that's my ten. I hope you enjoyed the read. All the drinks mentioned have made their impact and are, for better or worse, part of our lives.
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