When Starbucks announced it would be launching VIA, an instant coffee product, the food world collectively gasped. How could a premium coffee chain start selling instant coffee, a product with a notorious reputation for bad taste?
Today, the VIA brews were introduced in two markets, Seattle and Chicago. They've been the subject of much speculation, since, according to the VIA label, it's taken "decades to develop" the soluble, microground arabica beans. We couldn't wait to see how they matched up to the standard Starbucks drip. To see the results of our blind comparison,
Without knowing which coffee was which, several Sugar staffers sampled two VIA brews — an extra-bold Italian Roast and a medium blend from Colombia — against a same-sized cup of Pike Place Roast drip coffee purchased at a Starbucks store. Two of our tasters were able to correctly identify which cup of coffee was brewed and which two were instant; they described the instant cups as tasting "chalky" and "bitter at the end."
Two different tasters, however, not only thought the instant coffee was drip, but they believed the Starbucks drip was instant, tasting watery in comparison.
Italian Roast: Although this was PartySugar's favorite of the tasting ("I love strong, bitter black coffee"), it was my least favorite. Both another taster and I thought the coffee — described as "smooth, rich" — had a truly acrid aftertaste.
Colombia: Although this blend was slightly bitter, it was less aggressive than the Italian Roast and mellower in flavor.
When tasted next to brewed coffee, the taste of VIA was inferior in comparison, with a bitter end and little to no pleasant aroma. Still, I would drink VIA in a pinch and — at $9.95 for 12 servings — it's significantly more recession friendly than a traditional cup of Starbucks joe.
Do you plan to give VIA a chance? If you've tried it, I'd love to hear what you thought.