Monday, October 05, 2009

Starbucks VIA Ready Brew - Thanks, but no thanks

Dear Starbucks,

Thank you very much for the free cup of coffee this morning, and the opportunity to taste test your new VIA Ready Brew instant coffee. While I didn't care for the VIA (more on that in a minute), your staff was helpful and nice, and I enjoyed the cup of real coffee.

First, a bit of background on what type of coffee drinker I am. I'm not a daily, gotta-have-it kind of guy. It takes an effort sometimes, but I try to keep it down to no more than a couple of times a week. I'd prefer to have an occasional cup of really good coffee than to be constantly swilling bad coffee. When I drink it, I like it dark and strong - same as I like my whiskey or my beer.

I have no patience for Miller Lite, and will pass on beer if that's all that's offered (Guinness, please!). Same with coffee; if Denny's Swill is all that's available, I'll have a Diet Coke, thank you. And, frankly, when it comes to the chains, I usually prefer Peet's over Starbucks, and when there's a locally owned and fresh roasted coffee shop around, I'll take that over any chain.

So, back to the VIA taste test... Your barista prepared the two cups for me, one of the VIA Ready Brew and one of your Pikes Peek and set them out for me. On sight alone, I could not tell which was which, and I was hopeful. Then I sniffed them.

One smelled like fresh coffee should, and warmed me right up. The other was, well, kind of rancid smelling. On second sniff I identified it as cleaning chemicals following a sewage spill. That was enough to identify it as the instant coffee, but in the interest of science I went forward with the taste test.

The taste of the one I'd identified as the instant was not as bad as the smell, but certainly not as satisfying as the taste of the real coffee. The instant was thin and weak, and lacking in any body. The Pikes Peak was quite satisfying.

The barista confirmed my suspicion of which was the Pikes Peak and which was the VIA Ready Brew.

I suppose if somebody is already drinking instant coffee, or doesn't care about flavor and only wants a hot drink with a caffeine jolt, it might be a good product if drunk from a lidded cup (to hide the odor). But it isn't for serious coffee drinkers, and should probably be kept out of serious coffee stores.

So, sorry about the failed product launch, but thanks again for the free cup of coffee.


- Ken

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