A brilliant friend in New York

Beverages A brilliant friend in New York posted over to me some of the new Starbucks instant or VIA coffee for my birthday. It won't be available in most of the UK until the end of next year. I was intrigued but a bit reticent. Drinking instant coffee instead of filter is often a bit like watching a film on dvd rather than going to the cinema. It's perfectly enjoyable while you're doing it, but there's always a slight pang of melancholy afterwards because the experience just isn't quite the same, even when, as you can see, I drink it from a proper Starbucks mug.

I chose the Italian Roast for this first try. The coffee comes in small, long sachets, which when opened and tipped into the mug don't reveal granules but a dark brown powder not unlike grounds. I boil the water then let cool slightly as I pour the 8oz required into a measuring jug, then straight onto the coffee, stirring as quickly as I can so that the powder will dissolve quickly. Already I can sense the authentic smell of Starbucks coffee. I take my coffee black this has the rich shade of brown I expect from filter.

Then the taste. It's a triumph. The flavour is almost exactly like filter coffee. Like magic. A rich, strong wack of bitterness which flows about the mouth, resting on the tongue just like filter. Then there's the kick, the Starbucks kick, which makes my head cock slightly and my skin tingly as I assume the caffeine hits my system, just like filter. The strong after taste at the end of the cup stays in my mouth for minutes afterwards, just like filter. None of this do I usually experience from an instant and certainly not without overcompensating on the amount I'm dissolving.

Miraculous. And with no machine to wash afterwards, just my mug. Elsewhere, reviews have been mixed. Zoe Williams in The Guardian thought it "insipid" though based on her description I'd question whether she put too much water on it -- any more than the 8oz and I imagine it would taste blander. Similarly I'd question what it's like with milk and sugar, but then I think that about all coffee -- I do like it strong. There's an alchemy at work here and I can't wait for Starbucks to launch it nation wide in the UK so that I can experiment some more.

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