Starbucks Instant Coffee To Debut In Seattle, Chicago

Good news for those of you in Seattle and Chicago who just can’t wait to try Starbucks’ new instant coffee — you’re getting it first at $1 a packet. It’ll be available at Starbucks stores as well as Target and Costco starting in March.

The coffee, called “Starbucks Via Ready Brew,” apparently took 20 years to develop. Why bother, you ask? Well, the instant coffee market is bigger than you might think — accounting for 40% of the global coffee market. It’s less popular in the US than overseas, taking up only 9% of the US coffee market as opposed to 60% in Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United Kingdom.

CEO Howard Schultz defended the move to instant coffee:

“People are going to say this is off-brand for Starbucks,” he told a crowd of about 100 reporters and Wall Street analysts at an event in New York. “This is a long-term strategy. It’s not your mother’s instant coffee. The proof is in the cup.”

The company is offering free samples of the stuff on its website, if you dare.

Starbucks has high hopes for its instant coffee [MarketWatch]
Free Sample [StarbucksStore]


Edit Your Comment

  1. MagnusPI says:

    I’m at the ripe old age when “nobody likes you” (from that one song by Blink182), but I have to admit, I’ve never really seen the appeal in coffee.

    Still, if my friends beckon, I will heed their call to check these out along with them.

  2. B says:

    Does it have flavor crystals?

  3. Ratty says:

    Mediocrity brewed that much quicker. Mmmm!

  4. Fermina Daza says:

    Will the instant coffee also taste burnt?

  5. Snarkysnake says:

    All of you poseurs who have bought into the whole “Starbucks Quality Experience” look like fools. 20 years in the making ? So they were planning to introduce this shit at just the right moment since…Reagan was in power ?

    How can this CEO EVER have any credibility on any subject ever again?

    • downwithmonstercable says:

      @Snarkysnake: People that don’t think critically about things are super excited about this 20 year formula.

    • bobloblawsblog says:

      @Snarkysnake: i worked though college – 4 yrs – at ‘the bucks’ ; when there were no frappucinos, no “mild” blend; you had regular and decaf, or espresso drinks – none of this new flavor every season sh*t either. you did the basics, and you did it well. i cant go to a starbucks anymore – not since like 2000 – they re-steam the same milk over and over, burn the espresso – its embarassing. i used to be proud to work there instead of McDonalds – now im ashamed of where the company went.

    • madanthony says:


      They said it took 20 years to develop – they didn’t say they developed it. I’m guessing they bought the recipe or patent from someone else who was working on it for years.

    • mdoublej says:


      Maybe where you live there are indie coffee houses on every corner with hot yet accessible girls working behind the counter who affirm your cool by telling you how rad you are by ordering whatever the special coffee of the day is and drinking it black…

      where I live it’s Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, or the vacuum pots at the gas station.

      I never feel like a poser for going to Starbucks.

      • Snarkysnake says:


        “Maybe where you live there are indie coffee houses on every corner with hot yet accessible girls working behind the counter”

        Nope. Here we have one-tooth hillbillies with a big belly,scraggly beards and hygiene issues.

        And the men are bad,too.

  6. bohemian says:

    Mmmm McStarbucks.

  7. dohtem says:

    I have to applaud this company. If there’s one thing they know, it’s brand marketing.

    • Hoss says:

      @dohtem: That was not my first reaction. This is almost certainly a branding disaster. Starbuck’s pretends to care about coffee; about the beans, the temperature of the water, about when a pot needs to be refreshed… And now that market a chemically contrived coffee substitute? This is like a long time orchid grower selling plastic flowers just to get by in a sour economy.

      • dohtem says:

        @Hoss: That’s strange… I see the exact opposite.

        Looks to me like they are hoping their fiercely loyal customers that can’t afford their regular $3-$4 cup will still plunk down $1 for Starbucks instant coffee. (You know, the type those McDonald’s McCafe commercials make fun of.)

      • suzieq says:

        @Hoss: Agreed. This is like the anti-brand for Starbucks. More on-brand would be them inventing a way to brew your own high-quality coffee in a travel mug or something. Or pushing the DIY french presses more than they already do.

  8. Borax-Johnson says:

    That explains why Mrs. Olson has all that new bling – she sold out!

  9. slater says:

    “Sign up to receive a COMPLIMENTARY SAMPLE and StarbucksStore newsletters.” Well, its free except for the crap junk mail you’ll be getting crammed into your mailbox.

  10. admiral_stabbin says:

    Is the “proof in the cup” because that crap doesn’t dissolve?

    Seriously, I’d be willing to give it a try for fun…but, for $1 (USD) it better have crack in there too for me to make a habit out of it…

    • Robobot says:

      @admiral_stabbin: Yeah, this product has “novelty” written all over it. I’ll try it once for fun, but I doubt it will replace caffeine pills as my chosen cheap instant pick-me-up. 64 pills for $8 or or $12 for 10 packets, decisions decisions…

  11. philipbarrett says:

    And this is returning to the “Core Business?” I’d hate to see Schultz go out on a limb.

    You have diluted your brand to the point where it’s almost valueless & now you introduce Instant Coffee? Maybe yours is amazing but this is probably not the best time to attempt to change deep-rooted customer perceptions that Instant is shit.

  12. valarmorghulis says:

    I’m not as horrified by this as most Seattlites are. Mostly because I prefer standard slow-brew to espresso. I had a phase of instant that I went through, but haven’t had any in quite a while so I also got the web freebie.

    • downwithmonstercable says:

      @valarmorghulis: My friends think I am a heathen because I live in Seattle and almost never drink coffee. And when I do it’s usually in white mint mocha or frappucino form.

    • SeattleTed says:

      @valarmorghulis: Nor I. I laugh at majority of the comments above. Seems offering insurance to all employees, saving the coffee industry, and introducing a new lower priced drink during a downturn would be lionized over demonized. I don’t drink Howards stuff (Ladro, his BS) but am aware they’ve helped more than harmed. But hey what’s the internet without reactionaries?


  13. Kevin Goetz says:

    “It’s not your mother’s instant coffee. The proof is in the cup.”

    How good can instant coffee be? Stop trying to flatter yourself starbucks

  14. badgeman46 says:

    For the record, I’ve been all over South America, including Columbia, land of Juan Valdez himself. You will be hard pressed to actually find a real cup of coffee there. Almost all of it is instant Nescafe!! I guess it probably has something to do with the price since it is all exported, but still. Incredible!

    • TheSpatulaOfLove says:


      Ugh! Nescafe! The first swig of that shit makes me vomit instantly. Thanks to Disney and the captive hold they have (and flavorless mopwater they serve calling it coffee!) when you’re on their properties.

  15. jgonzz says:

    Hot water?! We don’t need any stinking water..!!

    just snort it off a desk or your hooker of choice..

  16. Margaret Powell says:

    I wrote for a sample. It isn’t fair for me to fully snark on it if I haven’t tried it—-but I’m pretty sure it will taste flat and disgusting. :) We’ll see.

    Maybe if it sold for 50 cents a cup they might get sales at target—but no one is going to buy 12 servings for 10 dollars—this is the same pricing that you probably get with a half pound of starbucks beans.

    • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

      @Margaret Powell: true, but people don’t drink Instant Coffee instead of Brewed for the price- they drink it due to the convenience, same reason people buy gas station coffee/starbucks drip/McMocha/etc – i can brew a better cup of coffee myself at home for much less, but that takes a few minutes setup/brew/clean…
      actually, tomorrow morning, i’m going to time how long it takes me to grind/brew/clean, vs. hot water+instant

      • HogwartsAlum says:


        It takes me four minutes to make my instant coffee in the morning. Three to nuke the water, and one to dump the coffee, creamer and sugar in my cup.

        Althought, now that my mom gave me a superfluous Mr. Coffee she had sitting around, I might actually brew something.

        • TVarmy says:

          @HogwartsAlum: Agreed, if you have any sort of morning routine, a drip machine takes the same amount of time or less than instant. Instant’s more for people who lack space or travel a lot, or aren’t allowed to have a real coffee machine.

  17. ludwigk says:

    This could be really big in other parts of the world where they don’t exactly have the same coffee culture that we do. We have a ton of coffee options in the US, and even places like McDonalds will brew you a fresh cup if you ask them nicely.

    When we were traveling through S. Korea a couple years ago, my mom had the hardest time getting a cup of coffee. She drinks a lot of coffee, particularly at the end of a meal, and she’s medium picky about her coffee quality. A handful of places had mysterious brewed stuff that was entirely undrinkable, even by “Waffle House standards.” Most places made some instant packet abomination that more closely resembled tea than coffee. I’m not a regular coffee drinker, but they tasted nothing like coffee even to me.

    There are certain markets where Starbucks could take their brand and really make a killing with instant coffee, and they might even end up IMPROVING the coffee in some of those places.

  18. twophrasebark says:

    It’s weird that you’re all attacking this but not attacking instant coffee in of itself.

    If it’s instant coffee – and if it tastes better than the rest of the instant coffee out there – then what’s the problem?

    • TVarmy says:

      @twophrasebark: Agreed. This is more expensive, but I’ve heard European instants are really good while American instants have just come to accept no one likes them and stopped improving. If Via really is good, and catches on, then that might cause the other brands to improve, a bit like how Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s and convenience stores improved their coffee after Starbucks got popular.

      Anyway, this means instant coffee will become a reasonable way to get coffee in a hurry rather than something a weird relative who doesn’t like coffee serves you.

  19. jmndos says:

    20 years ej….more like 20 days….to save the company from a financial nightmare…

  20. Blaaaah says:

    The only time I drank coffee was when I was overseas, and it was instant Nescafe coffee. That stuff is pretty alright, which is huge, since I adamantly dislike coffee. I’m a tea drinker, and overseas, their tea looked like coffee and gave me the strongest caffeine rush I’ve ever had. Ugh.

  21. HawkWolf says:

    Extra bold? So it’s grated charcoal in a packet?

  22. econobiker says:

    The end of times is near…

    Now I will buy a bag, use it and then replace the coffee with the crappiest stuff I can find to impress my friends…

  23. pippenz says:

    The whole point is that we want something Fresh not something that “tastes” like it is fresh. I thought that this was the raison d’etre of Starbucks and other specialty coffee retailers.

    The whole reason they were able to experience high growth rates, at least on some level, was the fact people did not want crappy coffee any longer.

    I say fail.

  24. LintySoul says:

    Given the option of caffine pills versus instant coffee, I’m going with the pills and sipping them with some hot cocoa.

  25. Dansc29625 says:

    Redi-pack? so you can enjoy it with redi-whip on top? Guess that is easier than learning to brew coffee.

  26. Alicia Johnson says:

    I didn’t know anyone who actually drank Starbucks when I lived in Seattle. We all drank Tully’s or got our coffee from the drive-thru kiosks.

  27. u1itn0w2day says:

    LOL LOL LOL -instant death of brand is more like it .

    LOL LOL LOL -after the curiosity seekers try it who is the customer ?

    LOL LOL LOL -I thought Starbucks was selling the experience .What-your kitchen refrigerator and tea kettle whistling ???

    LOL LOL LOL -1$ for a serving of instant coffee ,pffttt-a jar of Folgers does what about 3 dozen servings ?


  28. Doooom says:

    My guess is that you could get the same flavor if you took twice as much Folgers crystals, set it on fire, then added a cup of water.

  29. meadandale says:

    What’s more interesting than the fact that Starbucks has completely ‘sold out’ by selling instant coffee is the price point they are trying to hit with it.

    $2.99 for a three pack of instant coffee? A buck a serving for the gourmet equivalent of Sanka?

    I can make coffee from freshly ground, freshly roasted beans for about a buck a POT!!

  30. mdoublej says:

    I will try it, and if it’s good, I will likely buy a couple packets to keep in my desk. I couldn’t tell from the article though, will they make it for you in the store? That would seem odd.

  31. Anonymous says:

    I am a barista at SBUX. Some people underestimate our desire for the best after all we were trained by the best! We want the best, expect the best, strive for the best.

    Uncle Howie said something along the lines of “if it didn’t meet our standards, we wouldn’t put our name on it.” Very true. I tried the VIA a few days ago in a store meeting and I love it! I love the idea of it: I can carry a ‘cup of coffee’ in my purse, ready for me at any time! And the taste was great! a lot of people have been throwing it into the pile of all instant coffees. But don’t knock it ’til you try it.

    Furthermore, the Instant Coffee is patented. No one else can replicate it and it’s different from everyone else’s. That should say something!

    Give it a try! For the fun of it, I would recommend getting two cups of coffee at SBUX. Don’t let yourself know which one is Instant and which one is Brewed (mark the bottom of the cup so you can look afterwards) and I’ll bet you’ll be surprised and delighted!