Sunday, October 18, 2009
Starbucks Via Ready Brew: Italian Roast
I have a pretty serious bias against instant coffee.
We can thank my grandmother for this, as much as I loved my grandmother. If you've heard me talk about her before, you know that as far as I am concerned she is eligible for sainthood. But I could never understand why, out of all the ways you could possibly drink coffee, she preferred instant. And it had to be black. My grandmother also played fast and loose with the directions. She used so much of the coffee that the bottom of the cup looked like motor oil. Her reason for this was that using the prescribed amount resulted in a cup that was too weak. Oh, and she could easily knock off six cups or so. (Again, why she didn't just brew a fresh pot of good coffee completely escapes me.)
I have tried instant coffee made both according to the directions, and her way. And to be honest, I would rather just skip it in either case.
Being a fan of all things Starbucks, however, how could I resist trying their version of instant coffee? Well, I couldn't...so here we go.
My local Starbucks was giving away free single serving packets with purchase, so I opted to try the Italian Roast (the darker of the two available; the other being Columbia -- a medium roast).
I mixed my packet into eight ounces of steaming hot water and stirred to dissolve -- and thanks to the dubious magic that is instant coffee, it's immediately ready to drink.
It does have a nice dark smell. Not quite as full and roasty as a regular brew, but deeper than other instants. Actually, it smelled much like an average store brand coffee -- not an instant, but a regular. (Let's be honest, though -- it's hard for coffee to really smell bad.)
As for the taste? Well, I tried it two ways to get a feel for it.
First, I drank it black:
The taste is smooth. If you like the initial flavor of Starbucks coffees but tend to think they taste too dark or too burnt for you, this may be a Starbucks you like even more. It's missing the bitter finish that most Starbucks coffees have (and that I love). It's got an earthiness to it, but it stays mellow. If I drank this not knowing what it was, I wouldn't have guessed it was instant -- but I also would not have guessed it was Starbucks. It's more plain and basic than I have come to expect from their roasts.
I also drank it the way I normally drink my coffee -- with waaaaaayyy too much creamer and Splenda.
This way, while again I would not have guessed it to be Starbucks, I would also never have pegged it as instant. It reminded me of a respectable cup of home-brewed coffee. Nothing special, but still pretty good.
In the end, I would never pick Via over a freshly brewed cup of Starbucks; not even one made rather carelessly at home, let alone over one made at an actual Starbucks store. I am, however, truly impressed and surprised at how good it is -- especially for an instant coffee. In fact, I would choose Via over a traditionally brewed cup of most of the mass-market grocery store brands.
Honestly, I am not enough of a daily coffee drinker to say that I will be keeping a stash of these on hand. But for those of you who are, Via may be the instant coffee option you have long been waiting for.
But I suspect my grandmother would still have stuck to her motor oil.
Sample received at Starbucks with a purchase (had a Venti Breve Hot Chocolate, if you care)