CoffeeNate #22 ::VIA™ vs. Starbucks® Brewed Coffee “Challenge”


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Well, it’s that time again.  Time for me to go undercover and investigate what I consider outrageous claims made by Starbucks® concerning their new instant coffee, VIA™.  They released the line of instant coffees, which are being promoted as being AS GOOD as regular brewed coffee.  They claim that their instant coffee is different because it contains ‘micro-ground’ coffee.  Um, ground coffee does not dissolve in water, no matter how ‘micro’ it may be.  Fine ground coffee, allowed to steep in water will always, always, always be bitter and offer many off notes in the flavor.   Pardon my laughter, but the assertion that I won’t be able to tell the difference is ridiculous.  Perhaps they felt the need to make such an off based claim due to the large price tag, or maybe there are enough of their customers who will blindly believe whatever they say.   The VIA™ costs more than $1/8oz serving, more than brewing your own Jamaican Blue Mountain at home.  If you visit their website, it says that they bet that you cannot tell the difference between the instant and the regular brewed coffee…I took that ‘challenge’!


I apologize for the crappy camera work, but remember…this was a top secret, hidden camera assignment!  I got the barista to prepare the Colombian version of  VIA™ and also a cup of brewed Pikes Place Roast brewed coffee.  The moment I wiffed the two beverages I ‘instantly’ knew which was which.  The cilantro/jalapeno/cat urine scent of the instant was overpowering and actually had the same effect as snorting horse radish.  The Pike’s Place was mellow and smooth.  The results of the tasting was very similar, with the instant having a long and pronounced bitter flavor that lingered on my tongue like the Novocaine you get from the dentist.  Conversely, the brewed cup had a sweet mellow flavor, and it was very clean.  I tried to enter this whole deal with an open mind, but c’mon…really, is this is a joke?!  Instant coffee claiming to be as good as brewed coffee?  Umm, ok?  I have also tried cappuccino at the gas station…guess what…it doesn’t taste like real cappuccino!  The bottom line is that instant coffee, of any kind, can never duplicate the taste of actual properly brewed coffee.  Now VIA™ is much better than any other INSTANT coffee flavored beverage I have ever tried, but it is still instant ‘kawphee’.  Case closed!

If you are looking for ways to make great coffee in a pinch, just check out my post on making great coffee while camping.  In addition to using these techniques while camping, you can easily use these methods whenever your resources are limited to hot water!  You don’t have to sacrifice great taste for convenience.

Surprise, you have a chance to win some really great coffee from my friends at SpeakEasyCoffee.  Speak Easy is based in southern Ontario in Canada.  The site is very simple, but the coffee is amazing!  You can check out their site, and also follow them on Twitter @SpeakEasyCoffee It’s easy to enter!

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At the end of November, I will draw a winner and you will be able to choose which coffee you would like to try.  Speak Easy will ship it directly to you at absolutely no charge!  Enjoy 🙂

Nate

Nate is a special kind of coffee lover. He began drinking the same swill that most others do, but thought there must be something better out there. Sure enough, he was right, even more so than he ever dreamed possible. He soon found his way into the specialty coffee industry, and was tasting exceptional coffees from dozens of roasters from around the country. He is now committed to teaching others how they can appreciate coffee, and how they can make the best coffee in town and save money at the same time! Cheers c[_]

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  • Kevin

    I think you have missed the whole point of the VIA Platform Nate. Yes it doesn’t have the aroma of a cup of fresh brewed coffee. We at SBUX don’t claim that it has the aroma. The VIA isn’t out there to replace a fresh cup of coffee, but is there for those times when you can’t get a great cup of coffee. Traveling, especially in the eastern part of the US, SBUX store are often hours apart from each other. I will not settle for crappy coffee from a gas station or even worse, McDonalds, so the VIA is perfect for those occasions. Also, I have several regular customers who spend time hiking and don’t want the added weight of a French Press in their backpack. Sorry you are such a desk sitting coffee snob to miss the point, along with feeling you have to sneak cameras into our stores to post such crap on your blog. Try and think outside the box.

  • Kevin

    I think you have missed the whole point of the VIA Platform Nate. Yes it doesn't have the aroma of a cup of fresh brewed coffee. We at SBUX don't claim that it has the aroma. The VIA isn't out there to replace a fresh cup of coffee, but is there for those times when you can't get a great cup of coffee. Traveling, especially in the eastern part of the US, SBUX store are often hours apart from each other. I will not settle for crappy coffee from a gas station or even worse, McDonalds, so the VIA is perfect for those occasions. Also, I have several regular customers who spend time hiking and don't want the added weight of a French Press in their backpack. Sorry you are such a desk sitting coffee snob to miss the point, along with feeling you have to sneak cameras into our stores to post such crap on your blog. Try and think outside the box.

  • Kevin

    I think you have missed the whole point of the VIA Platform Nate. Yes it doesn't have the aroma of a cup of fresh brewed coffee. We at SBUX don't claim that it has the aroma. The VIA isn't out there to replace a fresh cup of coffee, but is there for those times when you can't get a great cup of coffee. Traveling, especially in the eastern part of the US, SBUX store are often hours apart from each other. I will not settle for crappy coffee from a gas station or even worse, McDonalds, so the VIA is perfect for those occasions. Also, I have several regular customers who spend time hiking and don't want the added weight of a French Press in their backpack. Sorry you are such a desk sitting coffee snob to miss the point, along with feeling you have to sneak cameras into our stores to post such crap on your blog. Try and think outside the box.

    • [seesmic Lm4u7r9ody|http://t.seesmic.tv/thumbnail/z06phsWz5h_th1.jpg http://www.seesmic.com/video/Lm4u7r9ody seesmic]

      • INSANE!! HaHa Desk Sitting Coffee SNOB!!! Ur Gonna Get Now!! Just When I Thought I Was The Only One Thinking Outside The Cup!! HaHa Take A Coffee Break Nate!! Really Thanks 4 Putting The Truth Out There, I’m Not Gonna Even Begin. Thanks!

  • BaristaOnDutY

    Just Let Me Know When U Need Security!! Not Sure If You Know I'm A Marine, But I Would Be Surprised If Those Buck Boys Wanna Buck You Up!! HaHa Way 2 Go Undercover!!

  • Just Let Me Know When U Need Security!! Not Sure If You Know I'm A Marine, But I Would Be Surprised If Those Buck Boys Wanna Buck You Up!! HaHa Way 2 Go Undercover!!

  • @BaristaOnDutY

    Better Starbucks Than Me~ Look Out Nate Here They Come!!

  • Better Starbucks Than Me~ Look Out Nate Here They Come!!

  • nate_s
  • @BaristaOnDutY

    INSANE!!!HaHa Desk Sitting Coffee SNOB!!! Ur Gonna Get Now!! Just When I Thought I Was I Was The Only The Only One Thinking Outside The Cup!! HaHa Take A Coffee Break Nate!! Really Thanks 4 Putting The Truth Out There, I'm Not Gonna Even Begin. Thanks!

  • nate_s

    I would probably be a proponent of VIA if their strategy was that VIA is the best INSTANT coffee. It is simply preposterous to try to equate VIA to quality brewed coffee. In fact, it's like saying that Boone's Farm is as good as Dom Perignon. Too bad 'Kevin' doesn't know me, but feels like he can make assumptions about me…oh well. I think outside of the box, and that's why your being so defensive. This fact remains, and is still yet to be refuted… Via is not as good are fresh brewed coffee…and never will be. Case made, case closed. And dude…bad news…McDonald's coffee is better than VIA.

  • I would probably be a proponent of VIA if their strategy was that VIA is the best INSTANT coffee. It is simply preposterous to try to equate VIA to quality brewed coffee. In fact, it's like saying that Boone's Farm is as good as Dom Perignon. Too bad 'Kevin' doesn't know me, but feels like he can make assumptions about me…oh well. I think outside of the box, and that's why your being so defensive. This fact remains, and is still yet to be refuted… Via is not as good are fresh brewed coffee…and never will be. Case made, case closed. And dude…bad news…McDonald's coffee is better than VIA.

  • Tamara

    LOL…this was by far my favourite episode of coffeenate.com!!! Love it!!! As if instant coffee from a package could ever compare to the real thing—and at that price, that's just ridiculous! Perhaps they should change their marketing scheme for those of us that know GOOD coffee to "BETTER INSTANT COFFEE" and sell them in a box of 12 for $3. Now for my question…"How does VIA compare to a cup of Tim Horton's brew?" Still laughing 🙂

  • Tamara

    LOL…this was by far my favourite episode of coffeenate.com!!! Love it!!! As if instant coffee from a package could ever compare to the real thing—and at that price, that's just ridiculous! Perhaps they should change their marketing scheme for those of us that know GOOD coffee to "BETTER INSTANT COFFEE" and sell them in a box of 12 for $3.

    Now for my question…"How does VIA compare to a cup of Tim Horton's brew?"

    Still laughing 🙂

    • Thanks Tamara! Glad I could offer you some comic relief. I echo your sentiments wholeheartedly. Hmmm Timmy's vs. VIA? That is a toughy…instant/micro ground coffee vs. stale weak ground coffee…I think Timmy's wins. Timmy's doesn't have the same putrid stench as the VIA and it actually brews coffee, not dust and freeze dried coffee.

      • Tamara

        Wow…now that's saying a lot!!!

  • nate_s

    Thanks Tamara! Glad I could offer you some comic relief. I echo your sentiments wholeheartedly. Hmmm Timmy's vs. VIA? That is a toughy…instant/micro ground coffee vs. stale weak ground coffee…I think Timmy's wins. Timmy's doesn't have the same putrid stench as the VIA and it actually brews coffee, not dust and freeze dried coffee.

  • Tamara

    Wow…now that's saying a lot!!!

  • Mike Crimmins

    I'll admit that I thought the Starbucks VIA was okay when I tried it last spring. However, (I think) my tasting abilities have improved since then so maybe I should go back and retaste them.

  • Mike Crimmins

    I'll admit that I thought the Starbucks VIA was okay when I tried it last spring. However, (I think) my tasting abilities have improved since then so maybe I should go back and retaste them.

    • Give it a shot Mike. This time, not in the context of instant, but on their premise that it is on par with freshly brewed coffee. Try them side by side and take a nice big ole sniff of each one. Your eyes will water when you sniff the via cup. I'll send you mine…it's either that or I flush it! Thanks for faithfully stopping by!

  • nate_s

    Give it a shot Mike. This time, not in the context of instant, but on their premise that it is on par with freshly brewed coffee. Try them side by side and take a nice big ole sniff of each one. Your eyes will water when you sniff the via cup. I'll send you mine…it's either that or I flush it! Thanks for faithfully stopping by!

  • Amie

    Nate, this was a fantastic review- I was so appalled the first time I walked into Starbucks and saw the stuff- i thought, "how the mighty coffee giant has fallen". Actually, I thought "are they on CRACK? but that just doesn't sound as nice. Excellent review, and I totally love the hidden camera trick- all in good fun!

  • Amie

    Nate, this was a fantastic review- I was so appalled the first time I walked into Starbucks and saw the stuff- i thought, "how the mighty coffee giant has fallen". Actually, I thought "are they on CRACK? but that just doesn't sound as nice. Excellent review, and I totally love the hidden camera trick- all in good fun!

    • Thanks Amie…glad you enjoyed it. I had a fun time. Via is a good instant coffee. I would never buy it in a million years, but if you want to spend more than the cost of real coffee for something that doesn't taste as good, then this is the stuff for you! You hit the nail on the head though, the Giant is falling. This is such a deviation from their normal customer base that I cannot see this being profitable for the long term. This stuff will be a memory, like McDonald's pizza and Milli Vanilli 😉

  • nate_s

    Thanks Amie…glad you enjoyed it. I had a fun time. Via is a good instant coffee. I would never buy it in a million years, but if you want to spend more than the cost of real coffee for something that doesn't taste as good, then this is the stuff for you! You hit the nail on the head though, the Giant is falling. This is such a deviation from their normal customer base that I cannot see this being profitable for the long term. This stuff will be a memory, like McDonald's pizza and Milli Vanilli 😉

  • Josh

    nate, great review. I look forward to looking at your other reviews! one thing to say is that we do owe the popularity of the $5 coffee drink to sbux. I didn't think the VIA was that bad – could see a market for it, but agree that they are doing themselves a disservice by marketing it the way they are. Josh

  • Josh

    nate, great review. I look forward to looking at your other reviews! one thing to say is that we do owe the popularity of the $5 coffee drink to sbux. I didn't think the VIA was that bad – could see a market for it, but agree that they are doing themselves a disservice by marketing it the way they are.

    Josh

    • Thanks Josh! I'm really glad that you appreciated my review of VIA. Really, if they pit it against nescafé or another instant, then I could be on board, but vs. fresh coffee? Never! lol I actually thought it was the worst coffee I've had all year. I do salute Starbucks for being a stepping stone to appreciating fine coffee. You evolve from folgers…to SBUX…to fresh roasted goodness 🙂 I look forward to your future comments.

  • nate_s

    Thanks Josh! I'm really glad that you appreciated my review of VIA. Really, if they pit it against nescafé or another instant, then I could be on board, but vs. fresh coffee? Never! lol I actually thought it was the worst coffee I've had all year. I do salute Starbucks for being a stepping stone to appreciating fine coffee. You evolve from folgers…to SBUX…to fresh roasted goodness 🙂 I look forward to your future comments.

  • ValeriaPylina

    Dear Author http://www.coffeenate.com !
    I think, that you are mistaken. Let’s discuss.

  • Jill Hayes

    I thought VIA was AWFUL!

  • Jill Hayes

    I thought VIA was AWFUL!

    • Cuz you are smart! lol If they could just be honest and call it instant!! It would still suck, but at least it wouldn't be fraud!

  • I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?
    And you et an account on Twitter?

  • nate_s

    Cuz you are smart! lol If they could just be honest and call it instant!! It would still suck, but at least it wouldn't be fraud!

  • Gurest

    Nate, I agree with you. The VIA is terrible and actually gave me stomach and digestive problems (very acidic). Starbucks lost all credibility with me trying to promote this junk. If you want a quick, great cup of coffee I agree with your review of the Aeropress. I just got one for Christmas and it makes the best clean cup of coffee I have ever tasted. The micro filters remove all the sediment and grit out of the coffee and pressing the water through the grinds produces a richer cup of coffee than pressing the grinds through the water (as with a french press). It's also much faster as you do not have to wait on the coffee to steep (while losing heat) as with a FP. I have put away my French presses!

  • Gurest

    Nate,
    I agree with you. The VIA is terrible and actually gave me stomach and digestive problems (very acidic). Starbucks lost all credibility with me trying to promote this junk.

    If you want a quick, great cup of coffee I agree with your review of the Aeropress. I just got one for Christmas and it makes the best clean cup of coffee I have ever tasted. The micro filters remove all the sediment and grit out of the coffee and pressing the water through the grinds produces a richer cup of coffee than pressing the grinds through the water (as with a french press). It's also much faster as you do not have to wait on the coffee to steep (while losing heat) as with a FP.

    I have put away my French presses!

  • @javanjazz

    Way to go Nate! I enjoyed those evocative descriptions of the Via…which by the way I never was curious to try, good to know my instincts were right.

  • Way to go Nate! I enjoyed those evocative descriptions of the Via…which by the way I never was curious to try, good to know my instincts were right.

  • nate_s

    Yeah, me either…I only did so in the name of everything that is right…for justice and truth, and to expose the LIES of Starbucks propaganda! No need to try this at home…I'm a professional! lol

  • Yeah, me either…I only did so in the name of everything that is right…for justice and truth, and to expose the LIES of Starbucks propaganda! No need to try this at home…I'm a professional! lol

  • I just did my own taste test when they launched in the UK yesterday and whilst I agree that it really didn't taste as good as fresh coffee it definitely beat all the other instants that I've tried. I'm on board for it as an instant replacement but not in place of a fresh coffee where I usually wouldn't head to Starbucks anyway.

  • Bill

    Very nice review! What I don't like about Starbucks is when I go there and purchase some brewed coffee I feel like I'm buying the brand and not the product.