Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Starbucks VIA

Last week Starbucks came out with an instant coffee--Starbucks VIA. I first found out about it on the internet. The article I read claimed that instant coffee is really quite popular in European countries and only suffers a stigma in the United States. Most likely because the leading brands are things like Tasters Choice. I prefer brewed coffee to instant. Am I just being a stubborn American coffee snob? Fortunately, my friends at Starbucks were there to help me find out.
To roll out the new line, as many of you coffee addicts already know, they hosted a blind taste test at their stores. They were betting that people couldn't tell the difference between that and their regular brewed coffee. I love stuff like this. Anything having to do with innovations in coffee technology is fascinating to me. A few of you might remember my blog about McDonald's "McCafe" rebranding. Don't get me wrong. I prefer a cup of coffee that is brewed simply and effectively. Heather and I use a french press every morning. We do things so simply that we can't even be bothered to plug in a Mr. Coffee. But there is a certain novelty in drinking something that a team of scientists worked on. To know that the flavor was created with meticulous scientific precision. It's awe inspiring and creepy all at the same time.
I'm not a huge fan of instant coffee in general. I have a few packets of decaf coffee in the cupboard. They look like tea bags and you just steep them in hot water for a while. I like them because they keep for a long time and I don't drink decaf very often. It's not instant, but it's as close as we get. If I brought Nescafe into the apartment, Heather might stab me on general principle. She would do some damage too. After all, she's a ninja. But I digress.
They were doing this Starbucks promotion from Friday, Oct 2nd to Monday, Oct 5th. You could go in at any time and try it out. Whether you were correct or incorrect, you got a coupon for a free tall coffee. We made sure to build it into our weekend schedule. I spent half the day talking about it. We were going to be part of history. We could tell our grandchildren someday, "Hey young whippersnappers, you know that Starbucks VIA that took the nation by storm? You're grandmother and I participated in that national ad campaign." They won't appreciate it though. They'll just roll their eyes and fly off on their hoverboards. They're probably on space drugs.
The Starbucks had a little station set up by the register with two pitchers of coffee--one with instant and one with fresh brewed. This is a departure from the television commercials that showed people drinking from full cups marked X and Y. I guess thats TV for you. They say it adds ten pounds. The staff was busy so we poured our own samples. Let me say that neither sample was bad, but one tasted very distinct from the other. Because I drink Starbucks coffee on a somewhat regular basis, I was easily able to identify the fresh brewed coffee from the VIA. I glanced over at Heather and she figured it out easily as well. Perhaps I'm biased because of familiarity, but I prefer the fresh brewed. It's a little stronger, which I like. You might get the same result from using two packets of VIA, but that's already too much work. A product like that markets itself on convenience. Life's too short.
So Heather and I proclaimed victory and redeemed our free coffees. We took up one of their tables for a while without having spent a dime. Sorry Starbucks, but thats the risk you run during a promotion like this. The packets cost three dollars for a three pack and ten dollars for twelve. I do not believe I will be purchasing any, but at least I got to be a part of history. Hey, I still talk about taking the Pepsi challenge.


Steve said...

I'll admit I'm a sucker for Starbucks. Is it the best coffee hands down every time? No. But they have brought superior coffee to the masses...a worthy liberator from the Dunkin Doldrums. I thought their VIA is a great instant coffee when you don't have access to fresh brewed. Again, is it better than your local renegade coffee house that sources exotic beans and roasts them onsite? Probably not. But if you're looking for good quality coffee at midnight or while traveling through sprawl land USA, I think it delivers!

BrideToBeDaniB said...

I can't wait for the day that The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf takes New York City by storm if it hasn't already. It is SOOOO much better than Starbucks can ever dream of being right down the bean. I may be biased because it happened to be my first job in LA, working as a barista at Coffee Bean, but still, I promise you, its infinitely better than Starbucks and they actually use the appropriate terminology for their drinks. For example, Starbucks has their Caramel Machiato.. This is in fact not a machiato at all, it is in fact a caramel latte. But they trick people into thinking they are drinking something other than what it is. A Machiato, is in fact espresso with a bit of steamed milk poured in and then foam. It is not nearly as tasty as the starbucks version, but than again, ITS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE, they are liars. Did I mention I dislike Starbucks? Glad to hear Via is not all its cracked out to be. I enjoy your blogs. Keep on, keeping on.

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