Regular Life

Regular Life

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost

Instant Believer

I met a friend on Wednesday night for coffee. There happens to be a Starbucks very near where we live, and not too far from his house.

We set our things between a couple of plush chairs near the front window and then approached the counter to order. A bubbly barista greeted us and took our orders. Yes, she could brew decaf for us, she said.

As we paid, she handed each of us a packet of Via, the new Starbucks instant coffee. About the size of my pinky finger, and with plenty of air inside, it didn’t seem like enough to make a satisfying cup of joe.

I turned to my friend. “Oh, yeah, it’s their new instant coffee. R got a free sample at the 5k we did on Saturday,” I said.

“Sir, it isn’t instant coffee,” the barista quickly and somewhat gruffly corrected me. Then she smiled to soften it.

“So, just put it in hot water?” my friend asked.

“Hot or cold,” the barista said.

“Some college kids put it in hot chocolate to make an instant mocha,” chimed in her co-worker.

The next morning I skipped brewing my own coffee at home and took the packet to work with me. Going into the hot water, the finely-ground coffee instantly turned to deep brown, almost black clouds billowing into the depths.

I stirred it and added my usual to make it more tan and a little bit sweet.

Now, I had tried instant coffee before this, and did not like it. The Starbucks employee had been right: this was not instant coffee. This was something entirely better.

At three single-serving packets for $2.95 or 12 for $9.95, Via isn’t something I’ll use at home every day. On a work trip, however, I will gladly substitute these for hotel coffee or the customer’s office coffee. Plus, it saves me from trying to find a decent coffee shop or settling for something less when I can’t find one. Camping trips could benefit, too.

I found an interesting Business Week article, published on the product’s launch date just last Tuesday, that tells how long Starbucks worked to develop an instant coffee, dropped the idea, and then finally brought it to market. Precursors to Via allowed the company to develop its line of bottled Frappucino and other products.

Based on flavor alone, Starbucks’ new Via instant coffee gets two thumbs up. Considering the price, however, I have to knock it down to one.

4 Responses to Instant Believer

  1. I had heard about it Mark, but haven’t tried it yet. I’ll have to go down to our Starbucks and give it a try (not that I drink Coffee all that much).

    Thanks for the review though!

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  2. I’ll have to ask to find out if it’s made its way up here yet. Mind you, I’m only in a Starbucks once every couple months or so, so it may be a while before I get back to you on that. I could always search the INTERNET to find out if it’s in Canuck outlets yet, but that would just take the mystery out of the equation too quickly.

    I’ll take a packet of Via, with a small helping of mystery on the side, please. Also, I feel like I should try it on a train. VIA is the name of our national passenger rail line, so that’s the first thing that comes to mind when you mention the new product. I’d be curious to know where Starbucks came up with the name. (Again, I could search for it online, but…)

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  3. Is it weird that I have a fondness for a bad cup of coffee? Your mention of being able to avoid hotel coffee and bad office coffee made me think…why? I totally get it, and am happy for all you coffee purists that such a product has come to market. I’d probably even enjoy it…but paying for it seems unnecessary for me since..well, I find a humble joy in drinking caffinated sludge. Also, I’d have to go into a Starbucks…a place into which I have no ventured in about four years or so.

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  4. Dave and Simon – Give it a try.

    I bought some at the airport before leaving Dallas, and I couldn’t remember which roast I got the first time. I think I chose the wrong one, because I don’t like it as well now. Also, it’s a bit messy because the grind is so fine (ahem) that it doesn’t want to come out of the package, and it dissolves so easily that it sticks to my fingers just from natural moisture. Starbucks brags, however, that it is 100% ground coffee, nothing added. That part I like.

    Moksha – I just can’t stand weak, unfresh coffee any more. Oh, and I wouldn’t buy it for my own personal use (except when I’m on a business trip, like now).

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