Ron Rosenbaum

Is Starbucks Instant Really Bad or Is It Just My Eternal Irritation With Starbucks?

I’d like to get some feedback on this because I can’t make up my mind whether I’m poisoning myself. I never thought I’d drink instant. Reminded me of mom’s acrid Nescafe. But it was the end point of a tortured evolutionary process. First I’d by fresh ground pounds of coffee and make it at home, drink three cups at a time. Several times a day Bad for nervous system.

Then I found that the bagged coffee often tasted stale, and I wrote a couple of columns in The New York Observer about my fights with S’bucks managers (used to be prissy martinets, better now) over the issue of returning stale beans. Anyway I feel I can claim credit for them starting to put sell-by dates on their coffee after my hostile columns pointed out the problem, but I still would get whole pounds that were not fresh tasting.

So then big switch (I know you’re finding every detail fascinating, but you know, it’s blogging and I want to hear your stories in just as much detail). I decided that to cut down on coffee drinking I’d only drink cofeee AT the S’bucks across the street where the fresh brewed stuff was almost always, well, fresh. I’d order the drink they called a “misto”–regular coffee with some hot steamed milk. Three bucks with tip. . Expensive but good and it cut down on coffee drinking.

Then a twist in my sobriety. My girlfriend started me on lattes. I’d get a triple grande no-foam whole milk latte. Five bucks with tip! It was good, it got me racing back to work where after 15 minutes of energetic keyboarding I’d want to take a nap. (the hotmilk vanquishes the expresso) Expensive in more ways than one. You start drinking whole milk lattes you put on whole pounds of weight.

So this fall they introduce “Via” their instant. I was dubious. I still am conflicted. If you drink it right after you pour in the boiling water (and only drink the dark roast version) when it’s piping hot it actually has a clarity and sharpness that remind you of a good donut shop coffee. But just for that one instant. Maybe that’s why they call it instant. But then by the time you’re half way through it begins to taste like micronized cardboard. Sludgy and awful. I’m not sure how or why, but it makes you hate yourself for drinking it. True, it allows you to stay home at the computer rather than break up the rhythm of work with a trip across the street and the reading of many periodicals instead of working.

Now I don’t know what to do. That one instant of clarity, of taste, of caffeinated uplift versus the self-loathing by the time you finish the cup thinking: why can’t I have a better life? There’s probably a lesson here.

Efficiency expediency, frugality (seventy five cents a cup) versus caffeinated depression, up and down at the same time. Anyone else have this experience? Any advice?