Earlier today I had the luck to attend a brunch held by Starbucks where they were going to present a Big New Thing. News of the thing, a new form of instant, or soluble, coffee called VIA Ready Brew, broke a little early so there wasn’t much surprise to what the news would be. The brunch was held at the Boat Street Cafe and of course the food was outstanding (reminder to self: make that kale gratin). I was so happy to have Mary T. from Shelterrific there with me.
update: Mary is holding a gift bag giveaway over here at Shelterrific and has more pictures from the brunch, some featuring my hands.
So here’s what I learned. The process of extracing the coffee took 20 years to perfect and was done by Don Valencia, who wanted to be able to drink good coffee on camping trips. The VIA name is in honor of him. It comes as a fine powder in the familiar skinny packet, you dump it into a mug and pour hot or cold water on top and stir. It’s 100% coffee, no additives. VIA will be available in Starbucks stores in Seattle, Chicago and the UK on March 3rd, and afterward everywhere. You can purchase it online at Starbucksvia.com, it will ship starting March 3rd. A pack of three will be $2.95 and a pack of 12 will be $9.95. Apparently samples were available at Fashion Week and will be included in the Oscars gift bags. There were free samples and those who heard about them early from Starbucks on Twitter grabbed them very quickly. They have not yet cracked the code on making a decaf version. The pack of three comes in this tidy package, which opens like a matchbook:
During the meal we got to try two varieties of VIA, the Italian Roast and the Colombian. I’m not a coffee snob but I did spend a summer working in a coffee shop (the critical early morning shift) and I can honestly tell you the coffee was delicious. There was no hint of bitterness or off taste to me and I was instantly thinking of all the ways having a few packets of this around would be ideal, mostly traveling. I was also thinking back to all the unfortunate past trips where we stayed with non-coffee drinkers and the touchy mornings because these people just didn’t understand and no peppermint tea won’t stave off my need for caffeine. Having a few of these would have solved all those problems. Anyhow, Ad Age reporters tried the coffee (note: video) alongside coffee brewed in the store and called it “virtually indistinguishable”. (That link is via The Food Section.)
At the end of the meal waiters brought around carafes of hot water and we were able to make our own coffee, but I had already taken the opportunity to dump a packet into my glass of ice water:
It dissolved (mixed?) quickly and didn’t have any bitter or sourness. I am completely taken with how easy this will make having a glass of iced coffee in the summer.
We were sent home with a swag bag with a few samples and this amazing I Am Not A Paper Cup from the MoMA store. Thanks Starbucks!
(I suspect, or like to think, that had the news of VIA not been so thoroughly leaked early the brunch would have included a reveal at the end of the meal that we’d been drinking instant coffee all along. As in, “we’ve secretly replaced their coffee with…”. That would have been awesome, no?)
I also wanted to say hello to the people I bumped into or met for the first time: Melody from Crave Party, Keren from Frantic Foodie, Ronald from Cornichon and Orangette‘s own Brandon, who reports his restaurant Delancey is set to open in April. Delancey is located in the neighborhood that Scott and I lived in for a year and a half and I really wish our time there had overlapped. Excellent pizza made by excellent people within walking distance? That would have been great.