The sticks are out, and the coffee duel is heating up. The duel pits Starbucks VIA Ready Brew stick packets against Nescafé Taster's Choice instant coffee sticks. The latter has been touting its brew as tastier and four times cheaper than Starbucks' instant.
Indeed, we found Nescafé for $3.89 for 20 packets at a supermarket (19 cents per packet), vs. Starbucks for $9.95 for 12 packets (83 cents per packet).
But how do they taste? We ran a blind test with six panelists of both brands of Colombian instant along with a pot of Colombian brewed coffee.
Not surprisingly, the gold star went to the brewed coffee; it offered the most complex notes. But Starbucks' VIA instant trailed very close behind in second place. Most tasters thought the Nescafé Taster's Choice was thin, weak or cardboardy. But at least one liked the Nescafé Taster's Choice best and thought the Starbucks VIA was too bitter and sharp. Still, all were impressed at how far instant coffee has come in the taste department.
Now that we're into iced coffee season, we also tested the two instants to see how well they dissolved in cold water. VIA's ultra-fine powder dissolved easily when mixed with cold water. Nescafé Taster's Choice's larger granules also dissolved well, albeit with some extra stirring. Here are a few other ways to sate your java jones this summer:
• Sprinkle a packet of instant coffee over your favorite soft-serve frozen yogurt, custard or ice cream for a bitter counterpoint to the sweet, creamy treat.
• Empty a packet into a glass or carton of milk.
• Stir a packet into a blender full of shaved ice to make an easy granita.