March 12, 2009
Sampling Starbucks VIA, Instant Coffee
Several years ago, I was in Humboldt, Tennessee to attend a funeral. At the same time, I was at the end of a big editing project and needed to stay up late working in the hotel. The problem? This tiny hotel had no coffee in the room, and at 11 p.m. or so there was none to be had elsewhere. My wife an I embarked on a trip to find some, and because Humboldt isn't large, the best we could come up with was a large styrofoam cup of extremely old and burned java at a 7-11.
Yes, I was that desperate.
I'm reminded of that night not because of the quality of the coffee, but of its scarcity. I'm sitting in my office drinking what at the time was even lower on the list of acceptable caffeinated beverages: instant coffee. Only now, the coffee isn't bad at all. It's a packet of the new Starbucks VIA.
I'm drinking the "extra bold" Italian Roast, which is indeed bold but still smooth. It doesn't have that sharp, slightly chemical twang that I remember from the instant coffee my father would make as I was growing up. (He's since reformed.) In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the VIA's taste does come close to the cup of Starbucks drip coffee I started with this morning. Not as fresh-brewed, but not stale either, which is important.
That's also a downside: VIA shares the same over-roasted, slightly burned (but nothing like that pot in the 7-11) flavor that is characteristic of Starbucks. If you're not a fan of Starbucks in general, you won't be swayed by VIA. I find Starbucks to be tolerable, and that's largely because I can walk the same distance from my office in Fremont and get vastly better coffee and espresso at e.t.g.; a few more blocks of zombie shuffling in the morning offers a little bit of exercise and the delights of the Fremont Coffee Company and its across-the-street neighbor Caffe Ladro.
But I'd have no qualms about buying several packs of VIA to carry with me while traveling, or even to have while camping. Compared to most hotel-supplied coffee (even the packets you brew, which aren't instant but often taste like it), VIA is an improvement. It's decent enough that I'm now curious to try the medium-body Colombia blend.
VIA is currently available in Seattle and Chicago.
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Oh man- this brings back memories of the hell that was coffee in New Zealand (and much of Australia until recently). I absolutely adore NZ and Oz, but coffee in most places was only the worst of what they call instant coffee. My wife even bought me one of those Eddie Bauer french press mugs after our last trip there.
Posted by: rmogull | Mar 12, 2009 3:54:49 PM
You can ad that coffee is a performance enhancing drug used freely by athletes from all kinds of sports ever since WADA once again removed caffeine from the list of banned substances.
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Posted by: Carlyn | Mar 20, 2009 2:21:39 AM
coffee, is not a drug. Coffee is life though we use that as a drug
Posted by: Online Website Editor | Mar 24, 2009 3:54:54 AM
Posted by: Website Editor | Apr 1, 2009 2:49:52 AM
You were expecting a response?
Posted by: Jeff Carlson | Apr 1, 2009 10:47:50 AM
Maybe next time you should carry a stovepot espresso maker. There is nothing worse than coffee withdrawal.
Posted by: Jeen | Jul 21, 2009 1:38:07 AM
Check out www.ViaTastesLike.com
Posted by: Keith | Oct 2, 2009 8:30:56 AM
I prefer to use pure coffee no these samples.
Posted by: Midlife Crisis | Oct 16, 2009 2:55:47 PM
I also prefer grinding freshly-roasted whole beans and brewing them. However, the fact that Starbucks made an acceptable instant coffee is notable. I also found another use for Via: during a recent deadline when I was drinking coffee at 1 am to stay awake and work, Via enabled me to have coffee without risking waking up my family with the grinder.
Posted by: Jeff Carlson | Oct 17, 2009 4:34:17 PM
Instant coffee takes the cake for me, it may not be as high quality but I dont have to give up my first born for it either.
Posted by: jkehler53 | Apr 25, 2010 1:59:47 PM
VIA is great for making quick iced coffee with lots of cream and sugar. Hard to beat for a hot summer afternoon pick-me-up.
Posted by: Espresso Machine Mike | Oct 26, 2010 3:04:37 PM
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