I was never a fan of instant coffee. I assumed all were equal, with a sour, unremarkable taste, something that you’d bear with, especially on the go. That is until I discovered Starbucks VIA instant coffee, which became my convenient, quick morning caffeine fix substitute. It also led me on a journey of discovery, and now I know a good number of alternatives, which I will be sharing details about in this post so that you too can start or continue enjoying quality coffee in an instant—literally.
7 Alternatives to Starbucks Via
Though the Starbucks VIA instant coffee is well known and loved in North America, it faces competition from brands that have a global presence and are available in the US and Canada. These include Café Altura Instant Coffee, Mount Hagen Organic Instant Coffee, Waka Colombian Instant Coffee, Douwe Egberts Pure Gold, Joe Coffee the Daily, Cusa Coffee Vanilla Dark Roast, and the Nescafé Taster’s Choice French Roast.
Café Altura Instant Coffee
This is one of the best instant coffees that I’ve ever tasted. It helps that it is also organic. The Cafe Altura Instant Coffee is a delicious, medium-roasted 100% Arabica coffee blend sourced from Asia, South America, and Africa. The beans are slightly roasted, then freeze-dried to deliver the taste and pleasant aroma of fresh coffee. The instant coffee is delicious when served iced or hot and is great for baking.
I love that it is convenient and has great taste, but I was sold when I got to know that the company uses fair trade practices and that the coffee is non-GMO verified. The packaging is eco-friendly, and the price is much better than what I was used to.
Mount Hagen Organic Instant Coffee
The Mount Hagen Organic Instant Coffee, is a blend of 100 percent Arabica coffee beans sourced from Papua New Guinea and processed in Germany, makes the list despite being a single-origin coffee. I like its smooth and rich aroma; it is mild and balanced; it is not at all bitter.
The company sources carefully selected beans from only organic growers. The coffee tastes better when you realize Mount Hagen is a pioneer in ensuring ethical sourcing and fair-trade practices. It is reprehensible to be enjoying delectable coffee in the West while the growers who make it possible languish in poverty.
This instant coffee is popular with people who do not need to brew a pot of coffee, such as travellers, students, and small households. It contains 50–60mg of caffeine per serving.
The decaf version of Mount Hagen Organic Decaffeinated Fair Trade Coffee is also a leader in its class. The company claims to extract 99.99% of the caffeine and manages to preserve the aroma and fruity depth, which combine with the nutty delicacy of Peru and spices from Honduras to make a sophisticated blend that is quite unforgettable. This, by the way, is our decaf of choice. We plan to restock once we run out of the jar we bought for the test.
Waka Colombian Instant Coffee
Do you love iced coffee? Then there is an instant coffee that will help you cut your preparation time to only a couple of minutes. The Waka Colombian instant coffee is a medium-roasted quality instant coffee made from Colombian arabica coffee beans. It has a smooth and citrusy flavor, is made of real coffee beans, and has no additives. The beans are freeze-dried, and that is why the instant coffee retains the aroma and flavors that you’d expect in a freshly ground bean brew.
Because it is instant coffee, it means you shave off over half the time it takes to brew a cuppa.
The company is also socially responsible. Every sale contributes 4% to clean water projects. Each serving of 8 fluid ounces contains 56-84 mg of caffeine and 4 mg of caffeine for their decaf version.
The Douwe Egberts Pure Gold is a medium roast, freeze-dried instant coffee made from a blend of the finest quality beans that is well-balanced and perfect for any time of the day.
With an excellency in coffee-making tradition that goes back 200 years, the company must be doing something right for this instant coffee to be rated as highly as it is. It is a Dutch national favorite, and also known as the Moccona brand.
A darker roast, named Pure Indulgence is also available, but we seemed to favor this medium roast for its smoothness. A serving contains about 60mg of caffeine: although the Douwe Egberts is not a cheap alternative, it makes for an excellent gift, to yourself or a friend you know is a coffee lover.
Joe Coffee The Daily
Another medium-roasted coffee makes the list. The Daily – Specialty Instant Coffee by Joe Coffee is among the best medium-roasted instant coffee options available on the market. Joe’s coffee process is in collaboration with Swift Cup Coffee. The Daily is a blend of coffee sourced from Central and South America. It has a well-balanced brightness and body with a delicate sweetness. The beans are meticulously roasted in small batches, brewed to a flavorful concentrate, then dehydrated by freeze-drying to bring out a concentrated instant coffee.
If you like your coffee without milk, you will love the daily. It is very tasty and full of flavor. We loved it served hot, and we loved the price point too. Each pack contains six individual 5g pouches of instant coffee, a pouch per serving, to which you just add 8–10 fluid ounces of water.
Cusa Coffee Vanilla Dark Roast
Flavored coffee, anyone? We got you, with an excellent vanilla dark roast by Cusa Tea & Coffee. Don’t let the tea in the name put you off. The company makes some of the best coffees too. The arabica coffee beans are from a family-owned coffee plantation that uses organic farming practices. Although they are single-origin sourced, the company can maintain uniformity in quality and taste. For the flavoring, Madagascar vanilla bean and real spices.
Unlike most of the instant coffees on this list, the company does not use freeze-drying technology but rather cold-brew using pressure and time to extract the flavor. They then gently dry out without extreme temperatures, removing just the water and leaving the coffee crystals that will instantly dissolve in water when it’s time to make the coffee.
The result is a dark roasted coffee, typically bold with a rich vanilla flavor. There’s nothing wrong with the drink, but since I am not a fan of flavored coffee, I’ll go with the great reviews hence its inclusion on this list.
Nescafé Taster’s Choice French Roast
A list of great instant coffees would be incomplete without a mention of Nescafe. After all, they are the best-selling coffee brand the world over by revenue, which means they must be getting something right. Our entrant in this list is the Nescafé Taster’s Choice French Roast. It is Nescafe’s medium-dark instant coffee that is bold, made of a blend of arabica and robusta coffee beans, the company’s darkest roast yet. The coffee is medium roasted then flash frozen to lock in a full-bodied, intense, bold-flavored cup that has smoky overtones.
After tasting some of the coffees on this list, I think I have developed a liking for medium roasts and found the taste of the French roast a bit too intense for my liking. However, if you prefer bold tastes, then this will make a great cup and is popular enough for you to be confident that it is not at all a terrible cup.
Instant coffee gets a bad rap, and caffeine lovers try to give it a wide berth as much as possible. This is because the processes used to make it are known to make coffee lose its flavor and sometimes become too intense. However, with technology and careful selection, it is possible to get an instant coffee that tastes as good as a brewed cup, with less effort and less pollution. If you have to choose between instant coffees, take the one that is ethically produced by a company that has a reputation for fair trade. There are several on the foregoing list.