Serious Eats: Drinks

Instant Iced Coffee Investigation: Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Iced

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[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

We're iced coffee addicts around SEHQ, often begging our poor interns to run over to Nolita Mart to fill our cold-brew growler. But sometimes you want instant satisfaction, so we were curious about Starbucks' new line of instant coffee meant for iced coffee. Would it be gritty? Stale-tasting? Or is it actually a viable caffeination solution?

One of our editors was hoping for an unsweetened version: "I'm not certain I trust Starbucks to know how sweet I want my coffee," she said. But for the most part, we were pretty pleasantly surprised by VIA iced coffee packets. The stuff sure is convenient, each packet dissolving easily into 16 ounces of cold water. We started with the "lightly sweetened" unflavored version. The brewed (dissolved?) cup is sweet and roasty. The bitterness of the dark roast offset some of the sweetness, though we'd still like to see an unsweetened version. If you like your Starbucks coffee with lots of sugar, this is for you. People who dislike SB's signature dark flavor won't be fans, but for those who do, this is certainly much more convenient than waiting in line for a venti.

The caramel flavored version smells like buttery caramel popcorn, and immediately made us think of dessert. Some tasters found it offensively vanilla-flavored and oversweet, but it's not far off from what you get when vanilla syrup is added to anything. We'd be tempted to put this in a blender with a bunch of ice and a little cream for a frosty afternoon indulgence. Whipped cream optional.

Have you tried the VIA Iced coffee? What do you think of it?

$5.95 for a pack of 5, sample provided for review.

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