Individual packets of Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Photo: Starbucks Coffee Company

Individual packets of Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Photo: Starbucks Coffee Company

Cindy Tickle the Starbucks Examiner at writes that soon your Starbucks coffee will come in an instant – literally. Now, you can with Starbucks VIA Ready Brew coming to Starbucks stores nationwide this fall. VIA is Starbucks foray into the world of instant coffee. Yes, that’s right…Starbucks and instant coffee are being used in the same sentence.

Many hardcore coffee fans are skeptical. Has Starbucks gone too far? Has Starbucks lost its coffee beans? Howard Schultz is either crazy or brilliant.

More than 35 years ago, Starbucks raised the bar in the coffee industry with its high-quality, premium beans. And, now, the company is doing it again with the same high-quality beans but this time in instant coffee, a $17 billion industry. Instant coffee represents 40% of coffee sales globally. Not a bad market to introduce a full-bodied, flavorful product.

So what makes Starbucks VIA different from my mom and dad’s instant coffee, you ask? The specialty-coffee company has worked for nearly 20 years to develop a proprietary, patent-pending technology to preserve the Starbucks coffee taste, quality and freshness, and it’s not called “instant coffee” but “soluble and microground coffee”. More importantly, the coffee used in VIA is ethically sourced as part of Starbucks Shared Planet.

You can get the soluble coffee in extra bold, Italian Roast or the mild, nutty-flavored Colombia. Just tear open one of the single-serve packets, pour the contents into a cup and add eight ounces of hot water, which makes it perfect for backpacking and camping. The single-serve packets are packaged in books of three or boxes of twelve. The suggested retail price in the U.S. is $2.95 for three and $9.95 for twelve. VIA was first launched in Seattle and Chicago on March 3, 2009 then in London on March 25, 2009. It is also available at Costco stores.

And for all you trivia buffs out there, what does the name VIA mean? It is an old Italian word for “road” which is appropriate for a portable product. But what is wonderful about the name is that it pays homage to Don Valencia. “VIA” is the first letter and last two letters in his last name. Valencia was an inventor hired by Howard Schultz to start the Research and Development department at Starbucks. He had been working on a quality instant coffee since the late 1980’s but tragically died of cancer in late 2007.

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