A short history of beverage crops

J. Mason, G. Cole, A. Fraser, P. Abdul, M. Beermann
We study history to learn from our past. Our past influences how we live today - our societal structures, the clothes we wear, the crops we grow, the food we eat and the beverages we drink. The history of beverage crops is immensely broad. Besides water, most of what we drink is based on the culture of crops. Beverages made from crops include alcoholic drinks such as beer, wine and spirits and non-alcoholic drinks such as tea, coffee, chocolate, fruit and vegetable juices. There is evidence of alcoholic drinks dating back to at least 9000 BCE, and of wine back to 5000 BCE. Indigenous peoples throughout the world have traditionally soaked plant parts to flavour drinking water. Although this history is difficult to substantiate, this may have been the earliest use of plant materials to produce a beverage. An ancient Chinese legend suggests tea making began in 2737 BCE when a Camellia sinensis leaf fell into a pot of water Emperor Shen-Nung was boiling. More reliable records of non-alcoholic beverages start around 2 millennia ago. Julius Caesar mentioned apple juice in his writings and there is good evidence of tea drinking in China from around the 2nd century BCE. However, up until the 16th century evidence of beverage plant history is scarce, then crop growing for beverages gained momentum during the 17th and 18th centuries. By the 19th century, the beverage crop industry was economically important and international trade increased in tea, coffee, cacao, wine, spirits and other commodities. This trend strengthened over the 20th century. In recent history, people have become wealthier and have a greater taste for new experiences. Beverage consumption for health and pleasure surrounds that trend. Lately there has been growth of multinational beverage companies, such as Starbucks. Changes in the marketplace are volatile, as evidenced by Coca Cola buying the UK-owned Costa Coffee chain. Fruit juice bars have also gained extraordinary popularity, increasing the demand for fresh fruit. Similarly, there has been change and volatility in the alcoholic beverage industry, e.g., the rise in popularity of boutique gin, beer and wine. In business, the concept has been to increase supply and demand will follow. Business opportunities today often arise out of trend setting; innovations by business entrepreneurs: forward thinkers who can use the knowledge of the past to push or create future demand. With these rapid industry changes come opportunities for those who are innovative, informed and bold enough to act.
Mason, J., Cole, G., Fraser, A., Abdul, P. and Beermann, M. (2020). A short history of beverage crops. Acta Hortic. 1274, 29-40
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2020.1274.4
plant-based, drinks, alcohol, wine, beer, spirits, tea, coffee, juice, water

Acta Horticulturae