Starbucks Via Instant – a failing-to-read-the-label odyssey

I generally make a pot of coffee in the morning. I am not particularly loyal to a roast, but tend towards Starbucks or Seattle’s Best brands. Sometimes, if the package is pretty and the price low, I’ll try something else.

I also keep a box of Starbucks Via Instant packs in inventory. Sometimes I don’t want a full pot, don’t feel like doing the work or it’s a busy morning and I won’t have time to leisure over the entire pot, so a Starbucks instant steps up to the cup for me.

This past weekend the shopping list contained the word coffee. I needed to resupply both the ground beans for dripping and the Starbucks Via Instant.

Me, being the antisocial type, and not particularly joyful over the time spent in a grocery store, was rushing.

I had just come from the pickle aisle, where my frustration had been piqued over the lack of Claussen dills, and was speeding down the caffeine-bean aisle.

Starbucks Columbian roast ground? Yep, in the cart, moving on.

Next, the Starbucks instant section with the three usual boxes of instant coffee on display. Ah, but this one is like three times thicker than usual! It must contain many more cute little packets inside. What a deal. In the cart it goes!

Now we move to the current morning. Wednesday, not that it matters. This household was not tack sharp this morning, following a full-moon sleepless night. One might assume I’d be making a full pot of coffee to get things restarted. But no, for reasons I cannot explain, I wanted instant. Perhaps I didn’t want to wait for the preparations and dripping to conclude? I don’t know, we’d need a study to know the darkest answer to this query.

But upon retrieving the new box of Starbucks instant that I had procured on this most-recent shopping extravaganza, I actually read the label: Starbucks Via Instant CAFÉ MOCHA!

It’s fancy hot chocolate!

The ingredients list shows, far down the list, after dried milk, sugar, caribou hoof and unicorn dander, coffee. What I’ve purchased is simply an overly-froufrou instant chocolate milk.

Frustration soon opened the door to curiosity. I have in fact been known to order a café mocha from a Starbucks barista. Sometimes I’m in that mood and I like the bev, so I didn’t open the window preparatory to a hasty jump, but proceeded instead to craft this new-found treat.

From the start, disaster loomed. I found the slit in the foilette package where I was instructed to tear. It tore easily — and with vigor. Such vigor in fact that a tiny powder explosion greeted my face. Fortunately, I was beside my sink, so that debacle was easily put at bay.

Being still un-awake, I failed to use the requisite amount of intelligence and dumped the entire packet into a mug. Dumped. I didn’t pour, I didn’t use any kind of gentle maneuvering whatsoever. I dumped.

Another cloud of dust to the face.

Another damp paper towel.

Another oath quietly uttered.

Okay now, the worst was over. I just needed to add the water.

To the fridge I went where cold, filtered water was on offer. The water slowly filled the mug while the magical Starbuckian recipe floated on top. The powder created a dense life raft atop, sealing off the top of the mug like a sarcophagus. Mr. Science could do an entire episode on the physics and hydrodynamics at play, but I was not amused. It was far too early for any kind of heavy thinking here.

For you see, I hadn’t yet HAD MY COFFEE!

I fetched a spoon and began to stir. Now, I’m no genius by far, but I have stirred a few things in my life. I’ve even used a whisk and a mandolin (that’s another story). And I’m a former trombonist. So while no expert, I am an experienced stirrer.

However, my experience in that area was not evident as I tried to incorporate the powders into the water. Or vice-versa. I stirred. I folded. I swished. I sloshed. I cursed.

After many minutes, and several escaped blobs of wet powder had created dark hut-looking blobs on the counter, I decided that some time in the microwave would get things mixed up.

My normal procedure for Starbucks instant calls for two minutes and thirty seconds of zapping in the ‘wave. So those numerals were touched into the machine and the start button was pressed.

I did some other morning chore while the machine did its business. When it became silent, I opened the door.

I am used to being greeted with steam and some evidence of hotness coming from within. But on this occasion, it appeared that nothing had happened.

I retrieved the cup and found it to be slightly warm. Not hot. And the mix certainly had not become a drinkable potion.

So I put the cup back in and beeped it for another thirty seconds. And another. And yet more. After some weeks a steamy condition existed and I was able to move forward. Or so I thought.

Back to the stirring. And cajoling. And begging. And mixing. And agitating.

Improvements were made in the consistency of the drink, but alas, the powder stuck like mortar to the sides of the cup, the spoon and angrily clung to the bottom like an Exxon sludge.

Evening was approaching so it was long past time to sit down and take a sip.


I cannot describe it as either bad coffee nor bad hot chocolate. It’s just awful. I’ve not personally tasted acrid chemicals, paint strippers or atomic waste since I believe such testing is better left to folks with the proper apparel and training.

But now, I believe I have.


Now, how to get this black cocoa plaster out of my mustache.

I need a drink.


  1. It appearS there may have been at least two failing-to-read-the-label episodes in this odyssey. Hopefully, it eventually ended well with a drink of somekind.

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