Books about brews, anyone?

Books about brews, anyone?

Oct 26, 2023Alan Wong

The International Coffee Organization revealed that we're drinking more coffee lately. Our consumption spiked by 73 per cent from 344,783 bags of coffee beans in 2020 to 597,064 bags in 2021, according to The Star Online. The spike put Malaysia third "among 58 countries in the region for the highest growth in coffee consumption in 2021", behind South Korea and Australia.

Malaysia Specialty Coffee Association (MSCA) vice president Chiam Tow Jin credited the stay-at-home orders during the pandemic for giving people more time to pursue other hobbies, such as brewing coffee. The Star Online also cited the dalgona coffee trend as a factor. No surprise, considering how much we love our coffee.

Incidentally, The Star's coffee coverage is in conjunction with International Coffee Day, which is observed on 1 October. The date was eventually agreed upon by the ICO, although some countries mark their own national coffee days on other dates.

From the ICO website, International Coffee Day celebrates "the coffee sector's diversity, quality and passion", presenting "an opportunity for coffee lovers to share their love of the beverage and support the millions of farmers whose livelihoods depend on the aromatic crop."

Despite being part of a US$200 billion industry, many coffee farmers aren't making a living wage. Eighty per cent of the coffee we drink is produced by 25 million smallholders and Fairtrade International stated that in 2019 these smallholders typically get less than US$1 per pound for their coffee beans.

Things haven't improved much since then and may have gotten worse with climate change, which may halve areas suitable for growing coffee by 2050. Starbucks is attempting to develop new arabica coffee plants that can adapt to a warmer Earth, but it'll take a while. Until then, the morning tipple for millions remains under threat.

Just a few things to think about the next time you have your morning cuppa. We suggest sipping it slowly and savouring the flavour, preferably while sitting down with these coffee-related reads that can help you learn more about the beverage than we could share here.

Cover of "The World Atlas of Coffee; by James Hoffman The World Atlas of Coffee by James Hoffman
Mitchell Beazley/Octopus Publishing Group Ltd

In this coffee encyclopaedia by champion barista and coffee expert James Hoffmann, explore the realm of coffee and its myriad aspects: the plant, its cultivation and production, the evolution of the beverage, the factors that affect its taste, how coffee is harvested, processed, roasted, and brewed, and much more. Also learn how to improve and taste your morning brew. You'd probably end up knowing more about coffee than you need to – not that it's a bad thing.

Cover of "The Devil's Cup" by Stewart Lee AllenThe Devil's Cup: A History of the World According to Coffee by Stewart Lee Allen
Ballantine Books

Stewart Lee Allen treks three-quarters of the way around the world on a caffeinated quest to answer these profound questions: Did the advent of coffee give birth to an enlightened western civilization? Is coffee, indeed, the substance that drives history? From the cliffhanging villages of Southern Yemen, where coffee beans were first cultivated eight hundred years ago, to a cavernous coffeehouse in Calcutta, the drinking spot for two of India’s three Nobel Prize winners, the author proves that the world was wired long before the Internet.

Cover of "Brewing Justice" by Daniel JaffeeBrewing Justice by Daniel Jaffee
University of California Press

Fair trade is a fast-growing alternative market aiming to bring better prices and greater social justice to small farmers worldwide. But is it working? This study of coffee farmers in Mexico offers the first thorough investigation of the social, economic, and environmental benefits of fair trade. It also explores the changing politics of this international movement, including the challenges posed by the entry of transnational corporations into the fair trade system. Finally, it offers recommendations for strengthening and protecting the integrity of fair trade.

Cover of "Uncommon Grounds" by Mark Pendergrast Uncommon Grounds by Mark Pendergrast
Basic Books

This book tells the story of coffee from its discovery on a hill in ancient Abyssinia to the advent of Starbucks. Mark Pendergrast reviews the dramatic changes in coffee culture over the past decade, from the disastrous "coffee crisis" that caused global prices to plummet, to the rise of the fair trade movement and the "third wave" of quality-obsessed coffee connoisseurs. As the scope of coffee culture continues to expand, Uncommon Grounds remains more than ever a brilliantly entertaining guide to the currents of one of the world's favorite beverages.

Cover of "Coffee Gives Me Superpowers" by Ryoko Iwata Coffee Gives Me Superpowers by Ryoko Iwata
Andrews & McMeel

If coffee is the foundation of your food pyramid, then this is your book. Inspired by Ryoko Iwata's popular website, I Love Coffee (, Coffee Gives Me Superpowers is overflowing with infographics and fun, interesting facts about the most awesome beverage on earth written by a Japanese coffee-lover living in Seattle. Includes the most popular pieces on the site, such as "Your Brain on Beer vs. Coffee", "10 Coffee Myths", and "The Best Time of Day to Drink Coffee (According to Science)", plus 25 per cent new, original material.

Cover of "Onward" by Howard Schultz Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul by Howard Schultz
Rodale Press

In 2008, Howard Schultz decided to return as the CEO of Starbucks to help restore its financial health and bring the company back to its core values. In this book, he shares this remarkable story, revealing how, during one of the most tumultuous economic periods in American history, Starbucks again achieved profitability and sustainability without sacrificing humanity. Offering a snapshot of the recession that left no company unscathed, the book shows in riveting detail how one company struggled and recreated itself in the midst of it all.

We hope you'll check out and enjoy these selections. Until next time, happy reading, and may your coffee be warm, sweet, and invigorating!

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