Wednesday, 23 September 2009

An Early Review

I just had a sneak tasting of Starbuck's new "Via" coffee; their not-really-instant-coffee coffee. I had the opportunity to try the Italian roast version and I have to say that it passed with flying colours. This isn't instant coffee, it's coffee that brews almost instantly.
Unlike a traditional instant coffee, where the coffee is brewed and then dehydrated, Starbuck's instead grinds the beans so fine that, with their oils, they almost form a paste rather than a dust. The coffee comes in a single serving pouch which you empty into a cup, add boiling water, and drink. The description that comes closest is "It's like a maccha powder, where the tea is ground fine, mixed with water, and then you drink the whole thing." This really is something new; there's drip or perked coffee, where you pass water through the grounds, there's the espresso-based coffee where extremely hot water is forced through finely ground beans to extract the oils and produce a crema, and then there's this, where the ultra-finely ground beans are held in suspension, leaching their oils, and you drink the beans as well as the oils in solution.
And I have to say that this technique works. And works well. Not a perk, not an espresso, this is a third way, giving a rich, dark flavour to the drink that is most reminiscent of an Americano (an espresso shot with hot water). While I don't think it will replace espresso-based drinks, it puts the boots to traditional instant coffees. There's nothing missing from the flavour, the coffee is as fully rounded and as complex as a drip-based coffee. I'm actually taken aback by how good this is--and I don't think it's because I've been off coffee for three months now. This really is a significant advance in coffee preparation. It's pretty amazing!Because of it's formulation, Via can be brewed with hot milk as well—making a neo-latte. Via would also make a good Cafè Ellison Diabolique (think mocha with vanilla sugar). The fullness of the Via flavour would balance off the sweetness of the chocolate very well.

This will also make camping mornings so much better—coffee at the speed of boiling water, but rich and complex while retaining the simplicity of preparation. I'll be willing to get rid of my single-shot cone filter if I have a couple of Via pouches along. And in the evening around a campfire with a shot of Bailey's in it, magic!

Overall, I have to say that I recommend Via. I've only had the one cup, but I think Starbuck's has hit a home run with this one.

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