REVIEW: Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Vanilla Flavored Coffee

Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Vanilla Flavored Coffee

People love to hate Starbucks. If you choose to believe the haters, Starbucks is Big Brother, has committed genocide on hundreds of small business coffee shops, and will single-handedly destroy the planet. Anyone who purchases coffee from Starbucks is a soulless yuppy who will rot in sheeple hell.

I have to admit, I get a little bitter (Coffee pun? You decide!) when I think about Starbucks putting mom ‘n’ pop coffee shops out of business. I also have to admit, Starbucks makes some damn delicious coffee. Fortunately, I am not a yuppy (although I may be soulless), and my bank account dictates where I purchase my coffee, which means I get it pre-ground in a bag from the grocery store.

There are other coffee options other than buying it from a coffee shop and brewing your own at home. One of those options is instant coffee. Starbucks already offers pre-ground bags of their coffee, and now they’re shoving their noses into the instant coffee market. Starbucks wants to make sure that no matter how you like your coffee, you’re going to be drinking their coffee. We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

So they launched a new line of instant coffee called VIA. It made me wonder: what are the benefits of instant coffee? To whom are instant coffee manufacturers marketing? I posited this question to a group of friends and got these answers:

1. People who like bad things
2. People without coffeemakers
3. Extremely lazy people
4. One guy’s grandma who isn’t a coffee snob who only wanted a single cup of coffee while only getting one dish dirty
5. People who are camping
6. People who are only interested in coffee for its medicinal qualities and don’t have the need or patience for a good cup of it

I will grant answer five as completely valid. Four and six, go buy one of those little one-cup or four-cup coffeemakers. I was the only coffee drinker in my household growing up. I resorted to instant for a little while, then grew tired of the lack of quality and bothered my parents until they bought me a little coffeemaker. Three minutes of effort and waiting were well worth it. Answers one through three are just unacceptable. Okay, maybe number one has some legs. If you enjoy being constantly disappointed, please, have a cup of instant coffee with your bowl of off-brand corn flakes and a side of already-cooked microwave bacon. It takes all kinds.

So has Starbucks transformed instant coffee into a valid form of caffeine consumption? We shall see.

VIA comes in several different iterations. There are different roasts, decaf, iced, and also flavored varieties. I can’t say I’ve ever known someone who drank black instant coffee, so I went with a flavored version. I chose Vanilla, but there’s also Caramel, Cinnamon Spice, and Mocha.

Making Starbucks VIA Ready Brew couldn’t be easier. It’s so easy, they don’t even need to more than two words in the instructions on the back of the package. When I tore open the flavor packet and dumped the contents into my mug, I was immediately met with the smell of vanilla flavoring. It actually filled my entire kitchen. After bringing a small amount of water to a low boil, I measured out eight ounces and poured it into my mug with the flavor powder waiting patiently at the bottom. I was surprised at how fast it dissolved; it only took a few stirs to transform it into a smooth, dark liquid that looked just like brewed coffee. I was also surprised at how dark it was, until I remembered that this is flavored coffee, not a fancy Vente latte with soy milk, two shots of espresso, extra foam and whipped cream. I can’t think Starbucks without imagining an overcomplicated coffee beverage that has more components than ordering a burger at Five Guys.

Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Vanilla Flavored Coffee Powder

So how does Starbucks VIA stack up to a cup of brewed coffee? Well, I think my friends left one thing off the list: the office workplace. I have worked at several different office environments, and the coffee has always been notoriously awful. I don’t know what it is about office coffee, but it always blows. It’s like the office itself sucks all the soul out of the coffee, much in the same manner it sucks the soul out of all the cubicle monkeys working there. Since VIA comes in individual packets and many office water coolers have a hot water option, I could actually see VIA being a VIAble (sorry) alternative to disgusting office coffee.

That said, VIA is still instant coffee, and for some reason all instant coffee has a slightly off taste. I suppose you could say that instant coffee is to coffee what a banana Runt is to a banana. They share a similar taste, but you could tell blindfolded what’s the imitator and what’s the real deal. I enjoyed the vanilla flavoring; it was strong but not cloying, sweet without being so sugary it made me feel ill. The coffee takes a background to the vanilla, but it remains as rich as you can get out of powdered coffee.

So, has Starbucks revolutionized the instant coffee industry? In my opinion, no, but I’d put VIA a cut above other instant coffees I’ve tasted. I don’t know if you can ever really nail the flavor of a fresh pot of coffee in powdered form, but VIA manages to inject some richness into their product, and they didn’t step over the line with the sugar or the vanilla flavoring. Coming in individual packets is a big bonus; if you’ve got hot water, you’ve got coffee, and there’s something to be said for that. One real obstacle that VIA has is pricing. I bought a box of six packets for $6.95; at a little over a dollar a pouch, that certainly beats the price of a Vente mocha latte, but can’t compete with brewing your own coffee and investing in a travel mug.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 packet (16g) – 60 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of total fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 0 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 13 grams of sugars and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Vanilla Flavored Coffee
Price: $6.95
Size: 6 pack
Purchased at: Starbucks
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: A step above other instant coffees. Five Guys burgers. Easy to transport anywhere. Nice vanilla taste. Friends with questionably useful suggestions.
Cons: Way more expensive than brewing your own coffee. Soulless yuppies. Still has that instant coffee flavor. Already-cooked microwave bacon. Encourages lazy coffee drinkers.

REVIEW: Starbucks VIA Iced Coffee

Update: Click here to read our review of the caramel version

There’s only one problem with the Starbucks VIA Iced Coffee — I can’t watch a cute barista make it for me.

Unless I steal a Starbucks employee apron and make one for myself in front of a mirror; or I kidnap a cute Starbucks employee and have her brew one for me.

If I do decide to abduct a hot barista, I won’t have her captive for long because making a Starbucks VIA Iced Coffee is quick and extremely simple. All the barista would have to do is rub the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose again. Oh wait, I meant to write, it pours the packet into 16 ounces of cold water, stirs and then adds in ice cubes, up to four, or else it gets the hose once more.

When I made one myself, I had to vigorously stir for about 45 seconds to completely dissolve the coffee. You can also pour the packet into a bottle of water and shake it like you’re trying to get rid of your flabby underarms with a Shake Weight.

Each packet contains instant and microground arabica coffee and cane sugar, and it’s bigger than the original Starbucks VIA instant hot coffee packet. I didn’t know anything about arabica coffee, so I decided to do a quick Wikipedia search.

I discovered the coffee gets its name because it’s indigenous to the mountains of Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula, and not from one of the places the Beach Boys sang of in their song “Kokomo.” However, while it originates from Yemen, the arabica coffee is from Colombia.

The flavor of the iced coffee tastes almost like the Colombia Starbucks VIA Ready Brew, which is also made with arabica coffee. However, unlike the hot version, the iced version is lightly sweetened with cane sugar, which made it easier for me to drink. Of course, you can add any amount of your favorite sweetener to it or perhaps pour milk from your favorite animal teat. So far, I prefer mine with an ounce of vanilla milk from a soy teat.

I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed the Starbucks VIA Iced Coffee, because I’m not much of a coffee drinker. It doesn’t have a bold flavor, which if it did, would probably turn me off, instead it’s quite smooth and refreshing. And it also gave me a nice energy boost. Go coffee!

I see myself buying the Starbucks VIA Iced Coffee on a regular basis because I’m getting Starbucks iced coffee without the Starbucks iced coffee price. Sure, it would be nice if a cute barista also came inside the box and if I didn’t have to wait for water to freeze before I can put ice cubes in it, but I really love its combination of flavor, price, the fact it’s easy to make and its versatility. Since I’m able to add whatever I want, I could mix the instant iced coffee with chocolate sauce, milk and ice in a blender and make myself a mocha Frappuccino.

Or kidnap a cute Starbucks barista to make it for me.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 packet (13.3 grams) – 50 calories, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 0 milligrams of sodium, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 11 grams of sugar and 0 grams of protein)

Read other Starbucks VIA Iced Coffee reviews:
Drink What
Orange County Register
Possessed by Caffeine
Coffee Cup News (YouTube)
Wandering Foodie (YouTube)

Item: Starbucks VIA Iced Coffee
Price: $5.95
Size: 5-pack
Purchased at: A Starbucks inside of a Safeway that’s inside of a shopping center
Rating: 10 out of 10
Pros: Very good. Inexpensive when compared with regular Starbucks. Easy to drink. Lightly sweetened. Easy to make. Versatile. Gave me a boost of energy. Shake Weight commercials.
Cons: Takes a lot of vigorous stirring to make the coffee dissolve completely. Doesn’t come with a cute barista. Coffee purists may not like it. Waiting for water to freeze. Kidnapping people.

NEWS: Starbucks Goes Donald Trump On Old Ice Cream Line And Replaces It With Younger Ice Cream Line

Starbucks recently launched a new super-premium ice cream in flavors that will be familiar to those Starbucks junkies who know the coffee giant’s menu better than the back of their hand. Of course, for those addicts it’s hard to see the back of their hand without spilling the Starbucks coffee it’s holding.

The new, perky ice cream line replaces the old, saggy ice cream line made by Dreyer’s. Unilever will produce it and make the ice cream with milk that’s free of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), just like Ben & Jerry’s — another company under the Unilever umbrella.

Again, if you have Starbucks running through your veins and exiting you through your urethra, the flavors that make up the new ice cream line will be familiar to you:

Caramel Macchiato – Swirled coffee and vanilla ice creams with ribbons of golden caramel.

Mocha Frappuccino – Swirled coffee and chocolate ice creams.

Java Chip Frappuccino – Coffee ice cream with dark chocolaty chunks.

Coffee – Swirled coffee and espresso ice creams.

Pints will be available at your favorite grocer, convenience store or superstore monstrosity for a suggested retail price of $3.99.

(Update: Read our review of the coffee flavor here.)

REVIEW: Starbucks Doubleshot Energy + Coffee Cinnamon Dulce Energy Drink

As I type this, my heart is beating faster than usual.

It could be the 146 milligrams of caffeine I just consumed with the Starbucks Doubleshot Energy + Coffee Cinnamon Dulce Energy Drink. Or it could be the alluring eyes and flowing hair of the twin-tailed siren in the Starbucks logo that is making my heart flutter and drawing me towards her to, perhaps, lead me to my watery grave or to wait in line at one of her stores to spend five dollars on a coffee made lovingly by a cute barista named Jennifer.

No! I must not give into her come-hither looks or else I will either end up in Davy Jones’s Locker or waste ten minutes of my life waiting in line listening to compilations of musicians that I have never heard of for a cup of coffee or a bottle Ethos Water.

Why, twin-tailed siren, must the company you represent make delicious, pricey coffee beverages? Why couldn’t you have represented a company that I wouldn’t have any contact with, like an inferior fish company on the East Coast or Circuit City?

I consumed an entire can of the Starbucks Doubleshot Energy + Coffee Cinnamon Dulce Energy Drink. Does my ingestion of a creamy Starbucks product not satisfy you, she-fish? I even enjoyed it and it gave me such a good boost of energy that if there was a rickshaw nearby, I would be pulling it to wherever the caffeine, guarana, ginseng, and B Vitamins desired.

The red cinnamon and white vanilla made it feel like someone was celebrating Christmas in my mouth. It had a nice balance of cinnamon and vanilla, but together they did not make the coffee flavor their bitch, unlike what you’re doing to me with your cleavage between your flowing locks. I think they’re natural, but I must not look to find out if they’re real or else you will lure me into the underwater world of Snorkland or convince me purchase a Starbucks Rewards Card so that I can get two free consecutive hours of Wi-Fi every day.

What will it take for you to leave me alone and not convince me to drink more of your caffeinated beverages today, Starbucks logo? Tell me, fair maiden, so that I may bid you adieu.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 can – 200 calories, 3 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 770 milligrams of potassium, 33 grams of carbs, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 28 grams of sugar, 12 grams of protein, 8% Vitamin A, 50% Vitamin C, 40% Calcium, 20% Vitamin D, 200% Riboflavin, 200% Niacin, 200% Vitamin B6, 100% Vitamin B12, 2000 milligrams of maltodextrin, 1800 milligrams of taurine, 450 milligrams of L-carnitine, 180 milligrams of inositol, 325 milligrams of panax ginseng, and 90 milligrams of guarana.)

(Editor’s Note: Look for this flavor in stores sometime in February. Thanks to the nice PR folks who sent this to us. Also, we reviewed the original Starbucks Doubleshot Energy + Coffee Energy Drinks last year.)

Item: Starbucks Doubleshot Energy + Coffee Cinnamon Dulce Energy Drink
Price: FREE (Retails for $2.59)
Size: 15 ounces
Purchased at: From nice PR people
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: It’s like Christmas in my mouth. Nice balance of cinnamon and vanilla, which doesn’t overpower the coffee. 146 milligrams of sweet, sweet caffeine gave me a good boost. No high fructose corn syrup. The Snorks.
Cons: Pricey (but isn’t everything from Starbucks). It’s 15 ounces and not 16 ounces. The alluring eyes, flowing hair, and cleavage of the twin-tailed siren in the Starbucks logo. Ending up in Davy Jones’s Locker.

Starbucks Vivanno Nourishing Blends

Oh yeah, Ms. Starbucks Barista. I see you flashing your smile at me, even though I’m in the back of this line that’s ten people deep and I’m partially hidden behind the rack of CDs I would never purchase for myself, but if you want, I could purchase one just for you, even though you probably have an employee discount and you don’t buy CDs anymore since you buy all your music on iTunes.

I originally came to Starbucks for one thing, the new Starbucks Vivanno Nourishing Blends…actually, I take that back, I came for two things since these new smoothies come in two flavors, Orange Mango Banana and Banana Chocolate, but now I’m here for three things, an Orange Mango Banana Vivanno, a Banana Chocolate Vivanno, and your heart.

Oooh, you’re so hot. You put the “hot” in hot chocolate. You put the “cha” in chai and mocha. I just want to take one of these Ethos Water bottles and pour it all over you to cool you down. Don’t worry, I’ll pay for it later…with some sweet lovin’. Speaking of things involving long objects, each Vivanno includes one whole banana. The Orange Mango Banana version also includes all-natural mango orange juice, whey protein, fiber powder, 2% milk, and ice, while the Banana Chocolate has bittersweet cocoa, 2% milk, whey protein, fiber powder, and ice.

Thank you for blending these Vivanno for me. You look sexy in that green apron you have on. Maybe you’ll get the opportunity to tie me up or strangle me with it. Speaking of overwhelming, the banana flavor was quite so in both Vivanno flavors.

But alas, you and I, sexy barista, weren’t meant to be. My heart skipped a beat when you called out my name because it made me feel special that you knew my name, but you only knew because it was written on the side of the cups and not because you made every effort to sneak a peek at my name on my American Express Blue card. I also knew you and I weren’t meant to be, because both the Vivanno you blended for me weren’t very good.

The Banana Chocolate Vivanno had a decent chocolate flavor, which wasn’t too sweet and reminded me of chocolate milk. The Orange Mango Banana Vivanno reminded me of an Orange Julius, except not as orangey. The Banana Chocolate one was kind of chalky due to the whey protein powder and it didn’t have the thickness of a smoothie, like those at Jamba Juice, instead it was watery and didn’t have those ice crystals which give real smoothies a satisfying crunch. The Orange Mango Banana one was bland and also watery. I wish you put more crushed ice in there, but I guess you don’t love me enough to do so.

(Nutrition Facts – 16 ounces – Orange Mango Banana – 250 calories, 2 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, 47 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fiber, 32 grams of sugar, 16 grams of protein, 35% Vitamin A, 35% Vitamin C, 10% Calcium, 4% Iron, 0 milligrams of caffeine, and 10-15 minutes of waiting depending on length of line to barista. Banana Chocolate – 270 calories, 5 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fiber, 28 grams of sugar, 21 grams of protein, 10% Vitamin A, 15% Vitamin C, 20% Calcium, 15% Iron, 15 milligrams of caffeine, and 1 ounce tears of disappointment.)

(Editor’s Note: Here are other opinions from Serious Eats, Slashfood, and Food-Notes. Also, thanks to Eric for suggesting today’s product.)

Item: Starbucks Vivanno
Price: $3.75 (16 ounces – grande)
Purchased at: Starbucks
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: A serving of fruit. If you like bananas, the banana flavor was strong in both of them. Under 270 calories. Vitamins and minerals. Fiber. Protein. Hot baristas.
Cons: One size only. Watery, not smoothie-like. Banana Chocolate one had a slightly chalky texture to it. Needed more crushed ice. Orange Mango Banana was bland. Waiting in a line of Starbucks junkies to get one.