"Way to go people in lab coats who figured this one out!"
Instant coffee never seems like it's trying that hard to taste like regular coffee. You can almost hear Nescafé saying, "yeah, whatever, I give up." But Starbucks may be changing that. Earlier this year, the chain introduced Starbucks VIA Ready Brew, a line of instant coffee packets (three single servings for $2.95) sold in two flavors, Colombia and Italian Roast.
We tried the Colombian packets against a fresh-brewed batch of Starbucks dark roast from around the corner and the paradigmatic instant coffee itself, Nescafé. While the Nescafé couldn't hide—ah, yes, that zap of chemicaly ink juice—it was actually really hard to differentiate the instant from the real deal. It was like taking a multiple choice test where B and C could arguably both be kind of maybe right. After the jump, see the difference between the Nescafé instant crystals and the Starbucks VIA ones.
The Starbucks VIA Ready Brew looked like finely grounded beans as opposed to the shiny Nescafé dirt pebbles. It was a little eerie how natural it looked, actually. Apparently Starbucks has been working on this project for over 20 years and has a patent pending on the technology. Way to go people in lab coats who figured this one out!
If you like the trademark Starbucks burnt taste and have to go the instant route, the replication is pretty impressive. Starbucks VIA Ready Brew smelled just like the real deal and if you go the cream-and-sugar route, you'll probably never notice. Maybe you'd still rather go around the corner for a bolder, zingier cup and spend a tad more ($2.95 for three eight-ounce servings of the VIA isn't that cheap) but if you are a fan of beverages in packet form, this one really isn't bad.
As word nerds, we were curious about the "VIA" name. [Ed. Note: Starbucks is clearly a fan of those three letters. Proof: Vivanno.] Does it mean “instant” in some exotic language? Nope. Is it cool to name coffee after prepositions? Maybe! It's actually an old Italian word for “road,” and this is putting you on a road...to somewhere more caffeinated.