Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Rose by Any Other Name - Part 2

If you know any Americans, you'll probably know that they drink a lot of coffee - large amounts (like a Venti which is 20 ounces) and frequently. No matter how late for work they are in the morning, they'll either get up and put a brew on, or pop into one of the many coffee places en route to work to grab a cup of joe. Their work places tend not to have giant vending machines offering coffee, unless it's a cappucino or espresso machine (and even they aren't common), but will have caraffes of regular and decaf coffee on the go at all times. Hazelnut and/or french vanilla if you're lucky.

One thing that is noticably absent in an American pantry is instant coffee. You can buy it in the stores, but instant receives a hundredth of the shelf space devoted to coffee compared to ground and whole bean coffee. I once met a guy at a conference who had never had instant coffee in his entire life, and wasn't about to try it then either despite the fact that there was nothing else on offer. The Ball & Chain would rather drink his own wee than drink instant. I am thinking of making him do a blind taste test but his coffee preference makes the teaspoon stand on end, so he'd probably guess.

Where am I going with this? What possible connection could this post have to roses, or names? Well, yesterday, hidden in the pile of rubbish that passes for mail these days, was a trial sachet of Starbucks instant coffee. (Only sent out to residents in Chicago and Seattle for some reason. Probably that we drink the most coffee on the planet.) The clever people in the Starbucks marketing department have decided to trick Americans by calling it VIA Ready Brew (which is trade-marked by the way.) Apparently, "This isn't like instant coffee you've ever tasted before"; it's made from "ethically-sourced Arabica beans", which presumably means that the poor beans lived a life of selfless giving before they were harvested to satisfy mankind's greed. Starbucks have even more cleverly re-packaged their thermos coffee cups as the "Ready Brew 10oz tumbler".

If you go to the Starbucks Store web site, you can read all about it and get a free sample. It's not officially out till some time in March. I decided to be your guinea pig and give it a whirl, not being averse to the odd cup of instant myself. It is as strong as your usual Starbucks coffee which should satisfy their fans, but was too strong for my taste.

I for one, will be watching this one closely. If Starbucks can conquer the American disdain for instant joe just by calling it VIA Ready Brew I will be very impressed. I may even copy their strategy and re-name every vegetable in the northern hemisphere in a bid to trick my kids.

Watch this space.



  1. Well you can keep your instant and keep anything to do with coffee!
    You see, I am a tea drinker and very, very, very, rarely have a coffee!
    So that puts paid to that, really! Sorry!

  2. I will be very surprised if this takes off. Even mighty Starbucks cannot convince people that coffee should be reconstituted from crystals, and the boiling water kettle is just not as ubiquitous in the states as the stand-alone coffee machine. I'm convinced it's because of the kettle that Brits have convinced themselves that instant coffee is an acceptable alternative to real stuff :-) So that's my prediction, but I guess we'll wait and see.

  3. I always get people to bring decent instant over because the stuff here tends to be horrible - but I must admit I am so used to preparing my coffee the night before and brewing it first thing that the need for instant is almost a thing of the past. Seems most odd to have instant on tap in the UK! And I was always a fervent tea drinker before living here. Not sure if it is the US influence of just the advent of kids and the need for excess caffeine in the mornings which made me turn.

  4. I almost always drank instant coffee in the UK, although when we were camping in France we always drank 'real' coffee made in a percolator. Why only in France? Real coffee was cheaper than instant over there.

    DH and I used to drink a lot of filter coffee but have cut back and got fed up with the wasted counter space for an appliance we rarely use. Now we use a french press, and even have three of them, one small, two large. Yet,there are two containers of instant coffee in my kitchen. (Caffeinated and decaf.) Although I don't like drinking instant coffee as such any more, what I do like is to nuke a cup of fat-free milk, adding instant coffee, sugar and cocoa powder. Yumm! I will have to see if I can get a sample of the new Starbucks instant.

    I still need my afternoon cup of tea though!

  5. I don't know how many coffee brewing devices I went through here before I capitulated and started on instant. After a while, you get used to it.

  6. You know, now that I think about it, I haven't seen a coffee bag in a while. I wonder what happened to them?

  7. No coffee for me thanks. I'm a tea totaller. I did hear that McDonald's is giving Starbucks a run for their money. Apparently their coffee is pretty good and much cheaper. They were even giving it away for free in Feb.

  8. Sounds a bit too much like Ready Brek for me. And why VIA? That just reminds me of viagra. Viagra Ready Brek - not very appealing.

    I think NFAH is right. If you don't have a kettle, instant coffee is never going to be a winner.

  9. I should be an American. It's official. I love coffee, love Starbucks, and hate instant coffee with a vengeance ( though I will have it if there isn't anything else which is often the case over here). Soon I will be in the home of Starbucks- Seattle.
    I would rather give up wine than coffee.

  10. Jo - and the shopping. Are you stopping off here on the way west?
    Iota- ha ha. Yuck!
    Melissa - and apaprently Dunkin' Donuts does good coffee too.
    Mike H - I think the UK instant is better. But then I would.
    Almost - that sounds fab. I must give it a try, then diet for a week!
    Nicola - that's extremely organised. I'm impressed.
    Not - I think I'm with you on this one.
    Maggie - no need to apologise. I would take tea any day.

  11. No need to diet after my coffee drink - note it's fat-free milk. The instant coffee and cocoa powder surely contain negligible calories, and you can choose how much sugar to add. In fact, if you don't bother with the cocoa powder, you can get away with no sugar.

    This was a treat when I was growing up - only served on days when we had lots of milk in the house and the milkman was scheduled to deliver more the next day!

  12. Signed up for my free sample of Starbucks - thanks!
    When I was younger my mum would make us milky coffee - instant made with 100% boiled milk. It was such a treat!

  13. I'll watch out for my free satchet in the mail then.

    BTW - award for you at my place.


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