28 May 2012

Tea and Coca-Cola

For God, Country, and Coca-Cola by Mark Pendergrast, 1999, Excerpts

Sugar and tea were initially considered exotic luxuries available only to the wealthy nobility in Great Britain. In addition to their use as rare spices, they were supposedly potent medicines for almost any ailment. A German traveler who met Queen Elizabeth in Shakespearean times described her black teeth – “a defect the English seem subject to, from their too great use of sugar.”

Poverty-stricken factory workers learned to grab a quick meal away from home, using hot sweetened tea as a pick-me-up. Teatime, a new British ritual, was gradually assimilated into all aspects of daily life.

This should sound all too familiar. Like tea and sugar, Coca-Cola started life primarily as a medicine, though not strictly for the upper crust. Like sweetened tea, Coke contained caffeine and sugar, along with a tiny amount of cocaine for fifteen years or so. A Coke break quickly became the American equivalent of the British teatime, while advertising stressed the role of the “pause that refreshes” as an aid to industry.


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