Straighten that collar, have yourself a seat and pull the metal screen between us, because I have a confession to make: My skepticism in instant coffee has been shattered (or atleast roughed up a bit) by Starbucks Via.
I suppose you could say my distrust in instant coffee stems from my late teenage years spent working in a nursing home kitchen, where the fresh-brewed regular coffee was disgusting enough, but for those poor unfortunate souls who requested “decaf,” the almighty Sanka packet & hot water it was. And like we could be bothered to even mix it for them half the time…as if!! It was all so garish and inconvenient and sounded like the work “skanky,” so I immediately wrote off this thing that was instant coffee. Later on in my career I became a nurse’s aide, and so progressed my interaction with the awful product; it now became my duty to prepare it for patients. When thinking back on those days of the good ol’ 3 to 11 shift, I am haunted by images of that fakey-brown powder sinking to the bottom of the cup (which was a streaky-stained, mauve color rather than maroon, a covert way for kitchen staff to denote that it was hot water only and definitely NOT coffee), only to be stirred up into a murky brown, lukewarm swamp water that loosely resembled the real deal, and to remove the spoon still encrusted with undissolved granules—Oh! The horror.
So. Yeah. I had a slight “thing” against instant coffee, you could say.
I started seeing Via crop up in Starbucks a few months before Christmas, and became intrigued by their promo insisting that you couldn’t tell the difference, but that you’d get a free cup of Pike Place if you could. Nevertheless I scoffed at this proposition along with the rest of the coffee snobs (I’m really just a moderate snob, a poser really… and most of that facade is owed to my insistence on soy milk & my constant griping that 1 shot of espresso is never enough for any latte, any where, ever) and continued to order up my regular cup of brewed Pike. All the while though, I couldn’t help but just wonder… just wonder what Via was like… was it smooth? Was it strong? Did it like to get its hair brushed and was it scared of the wind at night? So maybe we had more in common than I thought… But I was never inclined enough to venture out of my comfort zone & find out for myself.
This all changed Christmas day, when one of the gifts my mother gave me was a $25 gift card to Starbucks – “Wow! Awesome! Thanks Mom! That’s perfect! But what-” what was this it was taped to? An 8 pack of Starbucks……..Via??? Jaw dropped. I quickly glanced side to side to make sure no one in my family was about to call me out on my feeble attempt to conceal my excitement, and promptly regained my composure, non-chalantly asking, “Oh, is this like that instant stuff or whatever?” while gently setting it aside. I continued to open gifts, all the while keeping one eyeball on it, discreetly protecting it from other presents being tossed into its vicinity.
The first chance I got, I boiled up some hot water (2 cups, just to be safe, although the package calls for 1 cup/packet). I emptied the packet into the water, not knowing what to expect really. I held my breath and awaited the panic. Reeling in my mind was the the repressed disgust I had for Sanka and, even deeper, the social dilution (no pun intended) perpetuated by commercialism, of the demand for super-efficiency and convenience, of “instant breakfasts” and “quick oats” and “On-the-Go” powdered drink mixes and microwave dinners, of the – wait. It looked look like….a fucking cup of coffee. No sinking, no chunks, I barely had to stir up. In the blink of an eye, I forgot about my angry liberal hipster politics and what I had, what I had in front of me was a [so far] legit cup of Starbucks coffee. But how did it measure up taste wise?
Now, anyone who knows even 3 things about me knows that atleast 1 of those things is my irrational fear of alien abduction… but also, that I harbor an unrelenting love for fresh, bold, full-bodied coffee. I originally used a little more than cup of water, and this seemed to result in an ideal color and consistency for a decent, “medium” coffee. I added my dollop of soymilk & teaspoon of sugar, and I dove in….
Pure bliss! Immediate impression was that this was definitely better than Pike Place (which can taste a bit tinny, burnt, or otherwise “off” to me sometimes), probably because I added my own amount of water until my preferred color/strength was reached. But best of all – no weird aftertaste or free floating grounds which may have escaped their scathing hot, watery demise. It was rich, it was bold, it was full-flavored and it caffeinated me enough to stay up and watch 2 full seasons of It’s Always Sunny with my sister.
Since the first encounter, I have made Via 3 more times – and I have great big plans for it beyond the typical mug. Added to steamed chocolate almond milk for a delicious mocha latte, or maybe mixed into the batter for some yummy chocolate-espresso cupcakes. Oh, the debuachery! The adultery continues. The carousing never ends. Let the blasphemy reign down on me, every morning and mid-afternoon! Starbucks Via is my true water-to-wine savior, and if I ate fish I’m sure I’d be more inclined to fathom up a metaphor related to that too. I am in such complete & total lust with Via that, at this point, not even 80 Hail Marys could save me from the rath of the truly pretentious coffee snobs…but psh, as if anything could at this point.