Posted by: davepidgeon | October 26, 2009

Trail java via Starbucks

Holding up a packet of Starbucks Via along the Appalachian Trail.

Holding up a packet of Starbucks Via along the Appalachian Trail.

I love me some Starbucks, but this won’t be a love letter to the Seattle-based latte-makin’ coffee dominator of the world.

So what the heck is a hiking/adventure blog doing with a post about a coffeehouse chain?

Well, believe me, there could be an intersection where backcountry travel meets the mermaid-worshipping java corporation. Emphasis on could.

I visited Sunday the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania to see foliage and haze-free lookouts, including the state’s most epic vista at the Pinnacle, north of Hamburg. And along with the usual ham wrap for lunch, my food bag included a curious rectangular package called Via.

Starbucks introduced Via to the world in 2009, and it’s to coffee what red sugar crystals are to Kool-Aid. Essentially, Via packets are a cup of coffee in a powder form. All you do dump a packet into a cup, add hot water, stir and BOOM! You have coffee.

I figured this sounded like a flippin’ awesome way to carry coffee into the backcountry without hauling a coffee press, and the Via packets are even more compact than those individual coffee bags companies like Folgers sell. And I like Starbucks coffee, so why not put it to the trail test?

The Mountain Hardware Pocket Rocket boiled up a cup of water while Chris (author of TrailSauce.com) and I enjoyed the Lehigh Valley views from Pinnacle, and I dumped a Via packet into the scalding water. Immediately the brown crystals sizzled into a strange tan foam, and then settled into what resembled normal coffee water. I added a packet of Splenda because I prefer my coffee to be sweet.

A cup of freshly brewed Starbucks Via.

A cup of freshly brewed Starbucks Via.

I took a taste.

Not so good. I added another Splenda. I wanted badly to like this coffee, and I thought the next sip went down fine. Really, it didn’t. But I wanted badly for it to taste good, or at least adequate. Then I realized what was wrong – Via essentially had no flavor. I mean it. I like my coffee bold and with satisfying flavor, but Via just didn’t deliver.

Starbucks, I will always reserve affection for your conveniently placed coffeehouses, your delicious desserts and the way hazelnut syrup blends perfectly with your soy latte grande. But Via won’t be found in my backpack.

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Responses

  1. I am concerned about Starbuck’s strong-arm tactics and the scripted “conversations” used on customers to sell the new product. They show a rather sad view of the customer (as well as other people). I strongly recommend the following blog’s post: http://deligentia.wordpress.com/2009/11/13/starbucks/


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