Kitchn Love Letters

My New Pandemic-Friendly Routine That’s Just as Good as Going to Starbucks

published Jan 7, 2021
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Before COVID-19 swept through the U.S., I used to squeeze in visits to Starbucks any chance I got while running errands. Picking up a prescription? Stop for an iced coffee. Grabbing groceries? Oh, hello, PSL season. Dropping off packages at UPS? Gotta try that limited-edition holiday flavor. (You get the idea.) That habit came to a screeching halt, because, well, you know.

A few months ago, however, while shopping for groceries online, I noticed Starbucks VIA Instant packets. I had seen these instant coffee packets plenty of times before in passing at my local Starbucks and in grocery stores, but never felt inclined to try them for myself. But one day, when missing Starbucks particularly badly, I decided to give them a try (I started by ordering the Pumpkin Spice Latte flavor, of course).

Noticing that this flavor was “limited edition,” I made a mental note to check for peppermint mochas come the wintertime. Sure enough, an instant version of my favorite holiday drink popped into stores not too long ago. At $4.49 for a five-pack of a limited-edition flavor, I realized that these could easily replace at least one, if not all, of my Starbucks runs.

After trying the limited-edition flavors, I started to branch out into the regular coffee flavored packets. I particularly enjoy the Veranda Blend Blonde Roast or the French Roast for regular mornings. (Non-seasonal coffee packets come in boxes of eight and cost between $5 and $6.) And I like to add some hazelnut or vanilla fat-free creamer and some Equal or Sweet N’ Low.

Credit: Kate Oczypok

To prepare, simply add hot water to a mug and mix in the powder. I like to add unsweetened vanilla almond milk, too, as I think it makes the end result taste closer to the real thing. If you really want to treat yourself, add a dollop of whipped cream on top.

Credit: Walmart

Buy: Starbucks VIA Instant Coffee Dark Roast Packets, $5.38 for 8 packets at Walmart

I miss visiting my neighborhood Starbucks locations for a pick-me-up, and have often wondered how the baristas at my favorite branch are doing since a few there knew me by name. I think about them every time the microwave beeps with my finished VIA packet. (I can’t wait to visit them, when this is all over.)

At the end of the day, I have certainly saved a lot of money (and kept myself and others safer) by not going out to get coffee for the better part of the past year. As the pandemic rages on, though, I’ve found myself more and more grateful for the discovery of these little instant coffee packets that have gotten me through.

Credit: Kate Oczypok

Have you tried Starbucks’ VIA Instant? How do you think it compares?