Posting in Science
Not too terribly terrible, actually. I'd use less water for a stronger blend, and I'd make sure it was boiling before a pour, but it tasted like Starbuck's. Especially with the half n' half.
There was a crowd at my local Costco today, despite it being Week 4 of the NFL season.
The crowd was packed into a small corner between the butter and the yogurt. After a long detour to fill out my list I discovered it was a free taste of Starbucks' new VIA instant coffee.
In the name of science, and Smartplanet readers, I decided to make the sacrifice of my taste buds in your cause, and hopped in line.
The sampler was making full pours into Starbucks' tall paper cups, and happy campers were walking off like happy morning latte sippers everywhere.
The reason our sampler was where she was soon became clear. She was conveniently located next to the Half n Half, which Mr. Costco offers only in those convenient quart bottles. They were flowing like Monday morning. Everyone knows Starbuck's is just an excuse to drink cream.
I watched her process closely. Each VIA comes in a foil pouch, long and thin like a fancy sugar. She cut the pouch, poured in every last grain, then filled each cup with hot water nearly to the rim. The crowd was pressing her hard, like a downtown barista at 7:45 AM. The bottleneck was the time it took to heat the water. We weren't all waiting for it to boil.
And what was my verdict? Not too terribly terrible, actually. I'd use less water for a stronger blend, and I'd make sure it was boiling before a pour, but it tasted like Starbuck's. Especially with the half n' half. (And sugar -- gotta have sugar.)
I can easily see a law firm partner treating the staff to a box of this stuff after a tough case. At 65 cents a cup this would have to be a member of the plaintiff's bar.
It's true this isn't your father's instant. And while it's not like what comes from your local barista it's not so far off, If you're hundreds of miles from a real Starbuck's you can fool yourself (if the half n' half holds out.)
I can easily see this being served at Montana dude ranches on a cold summer morning, or placed on the tray in a room at the Ritz Carlton, moving down-market from there. Salesmen may see a box under the tree on Christmas morning. A 65 cent cup of instant takes an awful lot of rationalization. This won't take the market by storm.
But it's not half bad...
Oct 4, 2009
Actually Dunn, Starbuck's pays a bit better than minimum wage, and it offers its employees benefits too--that's part of why the coffee's so expensive. I'm no fan of Starbuck's business policies (they set up next to an existing mom & pop coffee shop where my brother lives, for instance), but their labor practices are actually pretty decent.
...but I'll keep an open mind if I get a chance to try this stuff. Normally I'd be open to the experience of sampling an instant Starbuck's coffee, but would go in expecting it to taste like...euh, how do I put it in a public forum? --Like other instant coffees...yes, that'll do. So, thanks to your article, I'll keep an eye out for a chance to sample VIA, and I'll go into it expecting a positive experience. It's nice to get feel-good news now and then; as someone who's picky about coffee ("snob" as my wife puts it), I'm always glad to hear stuff like this.
It has been my experience that there are more small coffee shops than ever thanks to Starbucks. Starbucks charges for their WiFi. The moms and pops don't.The moms and pops are also less crowded, more friendly to WiFi patrons than many Starbucks. Net-net I think Starbucks has created more jobs outside itself than inside. The only place I could get coffee before they came along was at the donut shop. Now I can even get decent coffee at the donut shop.
Starbucks' appeal, for most people, isn't the coffee itself, but the flavorings and the convenience(there's one on every corner). You can buy an alright cup of coffee anywhere, but few coffee shops serve the foofoo with it. I live in an area where the nearest Starbucks is 60 miles away(yes, that far out in the boonies), so if I'm going to make my own coffee anyway, I certainly won't use VIA. I love cappucino, amd it's not that hard to make. On the few occasions that I am able to actually visit Starbucks, I'll be sticking to the real thing.
You could say that ANY instant coffee tastes like Starbucks. Might I just remind the "Starbuckers" out there that before Starbucks there were many smaller "mom and pop" specialty Coffee, Tea, and Herb shops around. Starbucks just took that step into taking what used to be a true art and turned it over to any teenager that will work for minimum wage. In other words Starbucks ruined the experience for the true coffee drinker as they drove all of the smaller shops out of business. They are to Real coffee shops what Walmart is to specialty grocery stores. They won't see a dime from me and I hope they continue down this path to ultimate collapse.
I have to laugh when I received Starbucks' VIA Taste Challenge e-mail. "It's Starbucks X or Starbucks Y (Needless to Say, Everyone's a Winner), so they are trying to send a message that their VIA Ready Brew instant coffee is just as bold and flavorful as their brewed coffee, but I just can't help and think they are sending a totally opposite message that basically said "Our fresh brewed coffee tastes just as lousy as our new VIA instant coffee and that's why you can't tell the difference between the two, because they both taste crappy!" Haha, now that's funny. Dunkin donuts and even McDonald serves better coffee.