September 25, 2009
Starbucks, the company that helped produce a nation of coffee snobs willing to pay $4 a cup, is preparing to introduce its latest product at stores across Colorado Springs — instant coffee.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle for the new drink, dubbed VIA Ready Brew: Winning over the very coffee aficionados who honed their tastes — and raised their standards — with Starbucks’ “gourmet” blends.
“That just sounds wrong,” Connie Fairchild of Colorado Springs said, while mulling the idea over a Starbucks cappuccino downtown.
“For the frou-frou coffee-drinker, I think it’s going be a tough sell,” said her friend, Teal Heath, a drinker of black coffee
According to Starbucks, VIA is made from a “microgrind” of Arabica beans, and will dissolve instantly in hot or cold water. Packets of VIA will be available at Starbucks stores beginning Tuesday, at $2.95 for a three-pack $9.95 for a 12-pack.
It’s expected to complement, not replace, brewed coffee, one Starbucks barista said, and the company has high hopes it will catch on outside homes and cafes. They envision bartenders in trendy bars mixing it into drinks, chefs sprinkling it over tiramisu, and backpackers storing it alongside their ultralight camp stoves.
Of course, like a dusty bottle of Taster’s Choice, VIA Ready Brew can also be stashed in the pantry in case of unexpected guests.
“Everyone I’ve sampled it to has come back really impressed,” Rob Marshall, manager of a Starbucks store on South Tejon Street. “We’ve suggested you can put it on ice cream. You can put it in a cold cup of water. It dissolves into anything.”
Tell it to Robert Maley, a self-described coffee snob who seemed less than willing to suspend his disbelief, even for a company that he admits helped transform his own coffee habits for the better.
“I’ve had instant coffee, but only out of desperation. It’s like a cup of coffee that maybe a relative made for me that if they would leave the house, I’d probably dump it into the sink — not to hurt their feelings.”
He added: “I do have higher standards, and I do find instant coffee repulsive.”
Starbucks, whose representatives declined an interview, seems ready for another battle to change perceptions. The tagline for VIA Ready Brew — “Changing the way you think about coffee. Again.”
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