The story of how the consumerism around coffee and sugar affected the Industrial Revolution and modern working habits is nothing short of breath taking. In the seminal tomes "Sweetness and Power" by Sidney Mintz and "Uncommon Grounds" by Mark Pendergrast, we are tw fantastic primers on the profound impact of coffee and sugar on our modern civilization.
Historically, coffee's emergence as a staple beverage traces back centuries, notably gaining prominence during the Industrial Revolution when urban migration and factory work became the norm1. By the 18th century, coffee was the fuel that kept England's industrial workforce ticking2. Meanwhile, in the U.S., coffee availability soared to 46.4 gallons per person by 1946, reflecting the beverage's embeddedness in daily life3.
Sugar, on the other hand, transitioned from luxury to necessity as advancements in the sugar sector made it accessible. By the 1970s, sugar consumption peaked at approximately 50 kg per person per year4, a stark rise from the 10.2 kg per person per year in the 1800s5. The surge in sugar consumption was synonymous with the U.S. industrial revolution, which later snowballed into a public health concern6.
Mintz and Pendergrast's describe how coffee and sugar became more than just commodities. They were the silent fuel to the bustling engines of industrialization and modern work ethics. The coffee break and the sweetened tea became symbols of re-energization and social interaction amidst the mechanized rhythms of the industrial era.
As you sip your morning brew, sweetened to perfection, ponder on this blend of history, data, and narrative. Each sip is not just a taste of the present but a glimpse into the past that brewed industrial and intellectual revolutions, morphing the global landscape and our daily lives.