Not Martha

Starbucks VIA ReadyBrew instant coffee

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, 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.

· comments [27] · 02-19-2009 · categories:drink · food · things I think are neat ·

27 responses so far ↓

  • 1 BethanyWD // Feb 19, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Oh, glad to hear that you like it. I was telling my husband that I would need to have a taste test: the VIA, brewed coffee and french press coffee to see how they compare. I’m going to have to pick some of this stuff up!

    Have you tried the Starbucks Clover coffee? I happened to be at one of the Seattle locations that have the machine yesterday (unfortunately, I had already purchased an Americano!). It was described to me as custom, single cup french press coffee. They have different varieties available – all at slightly different price points (withing the $3-4 range for a grande). I’m going to make a point to try one next week.

  • 2 paola // Feb 19, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Does that mean Delancey is opening in Wallingford?

  • 3 megan // Feb 19, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Paola – Sorry! It’s in north Ballard, near the house we rented after our Wallingford owner returned and, sigh, decided to live in his own house again.

    Bethany – I have not tried Clover coffee at a Starbucks but I did try it from a couple of coffee shops who bought the Clover machine before Starbucks bought the Clover company. I found that the coffee from a Clover was very good, but it’s meant to bring out the more subtle aspects and as a result most people find it isn’t strong enough, or they don’t find the winey aspects simply because it isn’t a familiar aspect in coffee. But Clover made coffee is very good indeed.

  • 4 pulltaffy // Feb 19, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    That is too cool! I wonder why they can’t do it with decaf yet? I bet this is much better than the Nescafe I used to drink in college. That was almost as bad as not having coffee at all!

  • 5 Ricki // Feb 19, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    How cool! I wasn’t holding my breath that it would taste that good but I am excited to hear that it does!

    They sent an e-mail to card holders offering a free sample, can’t wait to get mine and try it.

    Loved your idea of the surprise ending, that would have been epic :)

  • 6 chez shoes // Feb 19, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    I’m probably more excited about this than I should be – so happy to hear that it’s delicious!

  • 7 grace // Feb 19, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    i’m not a regular hot coffee drinker but i do really enjoy iced coffee. i’m really looking forward to being able to make it instantly! i also had no idea starbucks bought clover. i’ve been interested in trying it out for a while now.

  • 8 frantic foodie // Feb 19, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    was so nice to meet you…
    what a great blog!

  • 9 stacy // Feb 20, 2009 at 6:12 am

    I heard about this earlier in the week and got so excited about Starbucks instant coffee that I went to the website and filled out their form where you can request a sample! I’m so excited for it to arrive in the mail and I can try it for myself!

  • 10 Two Nerds and a Dog » Blog Archive » For Flippy’s next slumber party // Feb 20, 2009 at 7:44 am

    […] at last we have a solution: Starbucks VIA instant coffee (from not martha.) Now I’m not the biggest Starbucks fan, but this stuff apparently works in […]

  • 11 Uncle Beefy // Feb 20, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Well this I’m gonna have to try then, Miss Megan! My mother tries to force Folgers down my gullet when I visit…EEEEEWWWW! But if you’re giving it your seal of approval? Well…who’s gonna argue with that! :)

  • 12 Mary T. // Feb 20, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Beef, not only did I like it, I made myself a cup this morning! I better make this last. Rethinking the decision to give some of mine away! ; )

  • 13 jamieofalltrades // Feb 20, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Great review of the product!

  • 14 greta // Feb 20, 2009 at 11:29 am

    i love this idea, but hate the fact that they come in what look like single-use disposable (not recyclable) packets. that’s great for travel, and i’ll probably try them, but other formats for home or office use would be nice too. i don’t mean to rain on the parade, because i really am excited to try these, but i hate to think of all that unnecessary trash.

  • 15 xlaurennicholex // Feb 20, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    I hear about this through Twitter and immediately signed for a sample. Can’t wait!

    Also, I understand why they emphasize it as “soluble” coffee rather than instant coffee… you can use cold water!!! This will definitely make life easier!

    I agree with greta though… the little packets are nice for on the go, but I would like to use this stuff in my dorm, so a big ole container would be nice.

  • 16 Seanna Lea // Feb 20, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    I signed up a day or two ago for the free sample. I love the idea of making coffee at home, but my experiments have resulted in weak or otherwise inferior flavor. I’m hoping this does the trick! Plus it can give us an option for the espresso powder called for in recipes.

  • 17 As Heard On Virgin Radio | The Blog According to Buzz Bishop // Feb 20, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    […] of the gifts in the nominee’s bag this year is Starbucks new VIA instant coffee. Yup. INSTANT COFFEE. Times are […]

  • 18 May // Feb 21, 2009 at 4:01 am

    I’ve had my eye on that non-paper-cup for ages but never got around to ordering one (or finding a stockist that delivers to Europe). Thanks for the reminder, I’ll have a google-around.

  • 19 Jenn Bo // Feb 21, 2009 at 9:01 am

    The coffee is sold in individual packats because soluble coffee from a container would only taste good for a short time. The enemies of roasted coffee: air, moisture, light and heat. Coffee exposed to these elements will not stay fresh and tasty long (i.e., the coffee becomes stale and unpleasant flavors will show up in your cup).

  • 20 Daily Research » Shared Items - February 21, 2009 // Feb 21, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    […] Starbucks VIA ReadyBrew instant coffee […]

  • 21 Jose Perez // Feb 22, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    My name is Jose i am a manager for Safeway Starbucks. I never saw this coming.!!! but i think it”s GREAT!!!!

  • 22 Betty // Feb 24, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Awesome! Sounds neat!

  • 23 Debbe Schwizer // Feb 24, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    I have always wondered when an instant would be made available…my wish has come true….can’t wait!

  • 24 cindy // Feb 25, 2009 at 2:50 am

    How great! I’ve been traveling and when I saw this, I thought it was the perfect find… Hope I get to try some out before I purchase them. :) Thanks!!!

  • 25 sarah // Feb 25, 2009 at 1:43 pm


  • 26 Cynthia A // Feb 25, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    I’m looking forward to trying this. I just started appreciating coffee from a french press, but it definitely takes time. I hope this is just as nice. Thanks for sharing!

  • 27 Stephanie // Feb 27, 2009 at 4:59 am

    I am a barista at SBUX. Some people underestimate our desire for the best after all we were trained by the best! We want the best, expect the best, strive for the best.

    I tried the VIA a few days ago in a store meeting. I love it! I love the idea of it: I can carry a ‘cup of coffee’ in my purse, ready for me at any time! And the taste was great! a lot of people have been throwing into the pile of all instant coffees. But don’t knock it ’til you try it. Uncle Howie said something along the lines of “if it didn’t meet our standards, we wouldn’t put our name on it.” Very true.

    Furthermore, the Instant Coffee is patented. No one else can replicate it and it’s different from everyone else’s. That should say something!

    I would recommend getting two cups of coffee at SBUX. Don’t let yourself know which one is Instant and which one is Brewed (mark the bottom of the cup so you can look afterwards) and I’ll bet you’ll be surprised! ;)

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