In a world where everyone is on the go, coffee has become a staple. Just about everyone — from commuters and college students to stay-at-home moms — needs their morning caffeine fix. Not everyone has the time to mess with coffee makers, however - hence the birth of instant coffee. In 1938, Nescafe became the first instant coffee to gain wide popularity. Offering a longer shelf life and faster preparation times, it was an instant hit. Today, nearly every coffee brand has some sort of instant coffee on the market; tens of dozens of varieties are available.The problem with instant coffee, however, is it is often of much lower quality than its conventionally prepared brother and has a bitter, grainy taste. Consequently, it has never caught on with the majority of consumers.Starbucks aims to change that. In late February, they announced the launch of VIA Ready Brew, a foray into a market traditionally avoided by premium coffee companies.VIA is for those who like a good cup of coffee now and then, but don't have time or the equipment to make one. You might drink it on the way to work, during a break at the office, or on a camping trip. Priced at $9.95 for a pack of twelve, it is recession-priced to boot. Though the product has been in planning for years, there is no doubt Starbucks is looking for a way to regain customers lost to the economic downturn.Does VIA fit the bill? At nearly $1.00 per serving, it is expensive, but significantly cheaper than the real thing at Starbucks. It is also conveniently packed in a little pouch for easy transport. VIA comes in two varieties: a bold Italian Roast, and a medium Colombia. Starbucks sent me samples of both to review.I tried my first cup of Italian Roast. Making the coffee was as simple as pouring the pouch of microgrounds into a mug and adding hot water; very convenient indeed. Stirring in the grounds, I was immediately hit with a strong aroma of coffee beans. The coffee itself tasted very good.
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