Review: Starbucks VIA Caramel and Mocha Instant Coffee
Upon a recent stop at our local Starbucks, we decided to try-out 2 of the new flavored VIA varieties which had piqued our interest the most... their Caramel & Mocha flavors. Here's a quick review of both touching on a few key points.
By now, anyone who's tried previous incarnations of VIA realize what it's "known for"... the residual microgrit of the undiluted coffee grounds left at the bottom of your cup. We were expecting more of the same and yes, such was the case but not as bad as before. We think Starbucks might be listening to customer complaints and are likely working on reducing the amount of undiluted solids in their mixes since we experienced far less than with their previous unflavored varieties.
Pricing in America is $6.95 USD per 6-pack while our Canadian Correspondent, SH, reported pricing in Canada is $1 more at $7.95 CAD per 6-pack. If you decide to purchase all 4 flavors you can be pushing anywhere from $28 USD to $36 CAD depending which state/province you're in and add taxes. Rather steep for instant coffee, although when you look at where Starbucks supposedly sourced some of their ingredients plus the global trend of rising coffee bean prices, it can somewhat justify their final pricing.
One good thing is that Starbucks locations are currently running a promotion where they'll give you $1 off via a rebate card which is valid until Nov. 15th (offer not valid on 3-packs). SH reported that his Starbucks even gave him 3 extra cards for his next purchase. In other unrelated news, Starbucks in Canada are slowly starting to get the same food menu items as what's currently available in USA, so it's nice to see all stores in North America will eventually be selling the same products. We wish more companies would adopt this approach.
Appearance & aroma
Each flavor mix contains microgrind coffee, flavoring powder and generous amounts of cane sugar. You can clearly see the cane sugar crystals although it was difficult to tell the difference between the coffee granules & the flavoring powder. When brewed black, you don't notice any difference, but once some cream is added (trust us, you DON'T need sugar), the true colors burst forth. The Caramel had a tan/beige color traditional of caramel sauce and the mocha looked more like a cup of hot chocolate than a cup of coffee. Nice visual impact overall. As for aroma, each flavor's scent lived-up to its namesake. The caramel had nice notes of buttery caramel present and the mocha had notes of dark chocolate throughout.
Ah yes, the most important category. What good is an instant coffee if it tastes horrible? Well, thankfully, that's not the case here. We think people who have yet to try a flavored coffee at a Starbucks (seriously, do such people exist?) will be a bit jarred by the punch of sweetness in these VIA flavors, but for those of us who are familiar with Starbucks penchant for drowning their specialty drinks in flavored coffee syrups, these taste on-par with what you'd get at your local location. Suffice it to say they're both VERY reminiscent of Davinci or Torani flavored coffee syrups. A quick gander at Starbuck's VIA site revealed yet another option for these drinks... use hot milk instead of water. Hmm... we'll have to give that a try sometime, but we opted to stick with the traditional prep method for this review.
Mocha before and after some cream added.
Caramel before and after some cream added.
Starbucks have been openly promoting the fact that these flavored VIA varieties are made with all-natural ingredients sourced from various areas of the World. If that's truly the case, then we can understand the pricing and compared to some other flavored instant coffees, we have to admit VIA has them beat flavor-wise.
Bottom line is Starbucks has managed to take the taste of their in-house flavored coffees and recreate them in portable, single-use instant packets. There's actual substance here... you won't feel that you're drinking dull, bland brown water with what's offered in this lineup. If you're still undecided, pick the flavor you'd most like to try... vanilla, cinnamon, caramel or mocha & have at it. Chances are if you don't like the taste, someone else in your family probably will.
If we were to score these 2 instant coffees using our usual scale, we'd have to rate both in the low 90 range at "exceptional" when compared to other brands of flavored instant coffees.
You can find all 4 flavors at your local Starbucks for $6.95 USD or $7.95 CAD per 6-pack (don't forget about the current $1 discount until Nov 15). They can also be purchased online in America via (heh, pun intended) www.starbucksstore.com.
We would like to note that we purchased these VIA instant coffees for the purpose of this review.
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Posted by Jay Brewer at November 4, 2010 7:43 AM