REVIEW: Starbucks Pumpkin Spice VIA Ready Brew

Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Pumpkin Spice

I always feel a little depressed once Labor Day passes, as I can’t wear white pants anymore. But other people generally have a lot to rejoice over: there’s football and tailgates, every food and drink gets flavored with pumpkin, and I can’t wear white pants anymore.

Right on cue, Starbucks has re-released their seasonal Pumpkin Spice Lattes. This year, they’re providing an extra treat in the form of the new limited edition Pumpkin Spice VIA Ready Brew. I love the Pumpkin Spiced Lattes (PSLs for those of us who really love Starbucks and also really love obnoxious acronyms), but have never tried any other VIA flavors before, so I’m in pretty much the exact demographic Starbucks is hoping will try their new Pumpkin Spice VIA and get hooked on their instant coffee offerings.

We’re approaching the section of my reviews where I like to offer an explanation of the preparation process. Not that this ever gets too complicated (“Step 1, buy ice cream. Step 2, eat ice cream. Step 3… um, go slow or you might get a headache”), but explaining the steps for preparing instant coffee feels particularly silly when Starbucks dedicates precisely 15 words to explaining it. I heated 8 fluid ounces of 1% milk. I poured packet into cup. I added hot milk. I stirred and enjoyed.

Here’s the precisely 15-word version of my review: for instant coffee, it was perfectly fine, but it just didn’t have enough pumpkin flavor.

There was just a slight whiff of pumpkin scent, both when I had only the content of the packet in the cup and after I stirred in the milk. Instant coffee always tastes indescribable, but noticeably off, and the Pumpkin Spice VIA offering was no different. In a blind taste test, I could have guessed that this was meant to be pumpkin-flavored coffee, but it definitely didn’t compare to the rich, distinctive flavor of a PSL. On the plus side, I thought the amount of sugar in the VIA packet was appropriate; I often find real PSLs to be too sweet.

Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Pumpkin Spice Closeup

Again, I’ve never sampled any other VIA flavors, but from reading our past reviews I gleaned that the instructions on other varieties recommend mixing with water, so I tried it that way, too. I actually found that adding mostly hot water and just an ounce or so of milk allowed the zest of the spices to shine through better.

Compared to other instant coffee, these Starbucks Pumpkin Spice VIA Ready Brew packets are good, but they don’t compare to actual Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Also, at more than one dollar per packet, they’re kind of pricey for instant coffee. Still, in hopes of drinking pumpkin spice beverages and wearing white pants at the same time, I’ll stock up on a couple boxes and stash them away for those long months between Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 packet/unprepared – 60 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 13 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Starbucks Pumpkin Spice VIA Ready Brew
Purchased Price: $6.95
Size: 5 packets
Purchased at: Starbucks
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Easy to prepare. Does smell and taste of pumpkin. Appropriately sweet. Tastes better with mostly water. Real Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Football and tailgates. Pumpkin flavors are back.
Cons: Pumpkin flavor not strong enough. Instant coffee always tastes a little off. Kind of pricey. Unnecessary acronyms. I can’t wear white pants anymore.

12 thoughts to “REVIEW: Starbucks Pumpkin Spice VIA Ready Brew”

  1. I stocked up on a few boxes of these as well. I went out first thing on Tuesday morning to hoard…er..score some. Just FYI buy these from the actual Starbucks stores. I bought two at a Starbucks located in Target and they were priced at $9.95 each, instead of the usual $6.95 regular stores charge. Also, I used 2% milk and it seemed to bring the flavor out more without the milk overpowering it. And if you need that extra pumpkin flavor, Cost Plus World Market stores have a dry pumpkin spice flavoring in their spices section which really tastes great. Add a bit of that to it, some whipped cream to top it off and you’ll feel like you’re in that pumpkin patch with Linus on Halloween.

  2. I am drinking my first cup (made with fat-free milk) right now as I write. And I’m sorry to say my first, second and third impressions are that this version of Via is not what I expected. I am having a difficult time getting it down. Unless my tastebuds are all out of whack, this tastes very much like chemicals to me. Perhaps it’s the version of coffee they used.

    Now I’m a superfan of Via Columbian; I buy it by the 50-count and drink one every morning at work. I’m sorry this tastes so bad and glad I only bought one 5-count box. I’m very disappointed and sad because I thought it would be nice to have another flavor sitting at my desk.

    1. I bought these as an alternative for the real thing since closest Starbucks is 15 miles away. These are terrible! Not even close to the flavor of the real pumpkin spice latte. So bad it makes me question my love of this drink. Save your money for the real thing.

  3. A tip for those too sweet PSLs….ask for only 1 or maybe 2 squirts of syrup. They default to 3. Since I often have soy milk, I only go with 1 squirt. The. Soy milk is already a tad sweet.

  4. I’m drinking my first instant PSL right now as well… I think it’s surprisingly good considering it is 1/3 the calories (if that) of the non-fat PSL (even if you cut some of the syrup when ordering) and 1/3 the price. Of course it’s not exactly the same, but I would never expect it to be, so I am not disappointed at all.

    1. It isn’t an instant PSL. Starbucks advertises that this pumpkin spice flavored coffee is merely inspired by the PSL. They are not even close in taste and doesn’t taste like pumpkin. It’s horrible! I can’t believe you’re enjoying it. Anyway don’t call it a PSL, it might confuse some people reading these comments.

  5. UGH so bad. I have tried it twice now and I can’t go through a cup with out forcing myself to drink it. The first time I had fat free milk, and the second I put some marshmallow on top and cinnamon to make it taste better and creamier and it was still horrible. I realize that Starbucks has advertised the Pumpkin Spice Via is inspired by the PSL, and so it can’t taste the same, but it is not even remotely close to the PSL. I’ve had Green Morning Coffee Pumpkin coffee which was very good(not like the PSL at all in any way but a delicious coffee), but this via is just disgusting. I figured that if it had any hint of the pumpkin flavor, which it does not, that it would taste great and same me a lot of money since I’ve been buying a PSL every day at at least $4+. I’m going to write to Starbucks.

  6. I’ve just tried the PSL Via and I have to say that if I don’t have to stand in line, pay 5 bucks for a drink, and have fewer calories I’m all for it…’s not that bad, has a strong back coffee flavor instead of the sugary spicey pumpkin flavor. So, just add some more spices or a shot of flavor at home. Also, use a frother to heat and foam your milk. Add cream, whatever…it’s very good for instant. Now, on the white pants after Labor Day – pffftttt…where anything you like. I found this funny as I’m wearing mine today. Off winter eggshell white, but hey….goes well with my black spotted haircalf pumps! Do your own thing GF!

    1. I’m not a big dairy fan, has anyone used just straight up hot water? Sounds like the reviewer tried it with mostly water and it was ok.

    1. It is September of 2013 and I googled PSL + terrible.

      If it is possible to drink a cigarette, I am doing so right now. This is absolutely gross. I am very open and not picky, but it tastes very smokey. Hard to explain. Me no likey and cannot suggest. 🙁

  7. I had the latte version with milk powder and heard all the buzz about about its lack of “authenticity” so I added some nutmeg to my mug, that way it could at least resemble pumpkin pie if it didn’t quite resemble a PSL. It’s certainly no PSL, but I’m enjoying it nonetheless and I encourage everyone to put their own twist on it as I did!

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