If you frequent Starbucks at all, you’ve probably seen the VIA packets on the shelves. This is Starbucks’s foray into the world of instant drinks — they started with instant versions of some of their more popular coffee beans, then the tea-based Refreshers, and most recently they added Vanilla Latte and Mocha packets to their lineup. As a lover of flavored lattes, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least give the VIA Vanilla Latte a shot.


The VIA packet. Happy sun mug not included.

The idea behind these drinks is simple: You open the packet, pour it into a cup with hot (or cold) water, give it a stir, and voilà! A tasty beverage without any of the hassle of brewing equipment or leaving the house. On this count the VIA line consistently delivers as expected; the packets of powder dissolve cleanly and quickly to create a nice simple beverage.

So how does the instant vanilla latte compare to the real thing? Well … pretty much just “okay”. It is a decently tasty drink, but quality-wise it’s more in line with other instant “latte” or “cappuccino” powders you can buy in a grocery store.


The finished drink, with extra motion blur from stirring

It absolutely has the convenience angle down, so if all you need is a well-packaged single-serving powder you can use to conjure up a sweetened coffee drink with minimal materials, VIA has you covered. However, as far as “bang for your buck”, you’d do better buying flavored instant coffee powder from the grocery store. VIA tends to run over a buck a serving, whereas for a few bucks more at your local grocery you can buy a jar or tin that will get you way more servings with about the same quality. If you don’t need the convenience of the single-serving packet, VIA just isn’t worth the extra cost.

Starbucks often runs promotions on the VIA line, so keep an eye out for coupons, samples, or buy-one-get-ones — these may bring the price down enough that it’s a better deal for you.

Bullet-pointed summary:

  • What: Starbucks VIA Vanilla Latte instant coffee powder
  • Where: Starbucks stores and some grocery stores
  • Verdict: A decent, convenient drink, but not worth the higher price