The Utne Reader served us coffee aficionados a treat this month, by devoting the November/December issue to a study of the enigmatic bean. Of the nine pieces included in the "Coffee Madness" section, Mark Schapiro's "Muddy Waters" is the most enlightening. He reminds us that the coffee we pay up to three dollars for at a coffee bar, costs about seven cents to make (twenty cents if you include sugar, spoons, etc.) and invokes Faith Popcorn who calls this the "small indulgence syndrome." Another good piece deconstructs a Starbucks coffee bar, analyzing the "uncluttered, Zenlike emptiness" of prep areas, from which the quirky personal touches of a true coffeehouse (family photos, personal artwork, postcards from buddies on the road) have been eliminated to make way for modern, Scandinavian-style furniture that restricts long ruminations over a cup of coffee, while ensuring an average of 893,148 customer transactions per week. A coffee chronology traces coffee history from 1000 A.D. (but overlooks the Genesis story of Kaldi, the Abyssinian goatherd who found that after his animals nibbled the fruit of the Coffea'arabica tree, they "abandoned themselves to the most extravagant prancing." He and his fellow goatherds tried it too, and Abyssinia hasn't been the same since). "Coffee Madness" also includes stills from those goofy Taster's Choice TV commercials with Sharon and Michael, a couple of didactic pieces on how coffee affects both our bodies and the environment, and some personal reflections on the rituals of coffee drinking. For anyone keen to study the current coffeegeist, the November/December Utne is a good place to start.