We Are Living in the Golden Age of Craft Instant Coffee
Instant coffee used to mean one thing: A container of bulk crystals, hidden away in the aisle of a deli or supermarket, meant for a quick caffeine fix. It's perfectly delicious—count me as a big Cafe Bustelo fan—but it's not exactly a traditionally high-end craft coffee experience. It's more of an immediate, cheap way to caffeinate your body in places that otherwise don't have the set-up to make a pour-over or whatever else you're looking for.
But that's changed in the past few years, thanks to a number of companies that have started manufacturing high-end instant coffee. It makes sense. Despite all the attention paid to single-origin in season beans and fancy equipment, by far the most popular way to drink coffee around the world is through the convenience of instant coffee. When Starbucks introduced its own brand of instant coffee, Via, in 2010, sales topped $100 million in the first year. Soon, other craft companies like Sudden Instant Coffee and Jiva Coffee Cubes introduced versions of coffee that were made to carefully preserve the flavors of the beans.
Into that scene enters Verve Coffee Roasters. From their Santa Cruz origins, Verve has opened a series of coffee shops that consistently rank among the best in the country. Their single origin offerings change seasonally, and they take them very seriously. On August 18, Verve will launch their Craft Instant Coffee, to be sold at their cafes and at men's retailer Huckberry before launching nationally via their website in September.
The coffee comes in three flavors, and runs $16 to $17 for a box of six packets, at 30 grams of coffee a piece. That's a cup of instant coffee costing roughly $2.67 to $2.83, a lot steeper than traditional instant coffee offerings. The coffee, per a press release, is "freeze-dried at sub zero temperatures in an oxygen-free environment." The three flavors available at launch will be Streetlevel Blend, Honduras Edgardo Tinoco, and Kenya Kathakwa.
Watch: How to Make Mocha Iced Coffee
Verve sent along some fo the coffee to sample at our office. I tried them out alongside the coffee that we have in our communal snack area, coffee that is functional, in that it delivers caffeine enough to keep one working, but is only a notch above burned gas station drip coffee in terms of taste. So yes, the Verve Instant coffee was a much better cup than what we have on offer. It's still a different animal than brewing fresh coffee, but it was much closer to a cup of nice coffee shop coffee than I expected. Since you can also mix the instant coffee with cold water or milk, it's also a great way to make a quick cup of actually-good iced coffee at your desk or in a hotel room or in a dorm. It's extremely portable, thanks to the single serving packets, which means that
It has all the convenience of coffee crystals, without the usual acrid tang, and though the price is more than the standard offerings in the cateogy, it's also about the same, or a little less than what I'd pay for a cup of coffee near my office in Manhattan. Your coffee needs and tastes may vary of course, but if you need better coffee in a hurry, Verve is a great way to go.