Starbucks “Via” doesn’t help matters


Tall Bike Coffee is roasted off site by the owners of Lamplighter Coffee in Richmond, Va. Photo:

I love coffee. I was never one of those folks who started drinking it in childhood, or at college. I actually didn’t start drinking it until my mid-thirties, when my then dear friend Amy, a total coffee junkie, got me hooked.

In the ten years or so since then I’ve come to love grinding my own, brewing in a French press, and bypassing all the fancy coffee options for a straight Joe, with a lil’ bit o’ cream.

Coffee is a trash heap’s best friend

But as I’m sure you can imagine, the coffee culture that revived in this past decade (turns out coffee was way cool to quaff in Colonial, Virginia, too, and in very large servings) has lead to a significant uptick in waste products—paper cups and heat guards, plastic lids and those little stirrers.

I’ve already urged you to use your own cup. Really, no self-respecting person should be seen in our culture today carrying a disposable cup.

The boycott beat goes on

But I’ll also urge you to snub and vocally disdain the new range of personal coffee servings, a product instantly recognizable in the new Starbucks Via.

This supposedly better tasting instant coffee comes in—cough, cough— handy dandy instant serve single packs! That means that for every coffee you instantly “brew” your super-secret flavor enhanced coffee comes wrapped all around in its own mini packaging. But as if that weren’t enough, you can get these in 3 or 12 packs, meaning another layer of packaging for the packaging. Are they selling coffee here, or trying to keep the paper, cardboard, plastic and ink industries afloat?

These are as bad as those Keurig K Cups with the coffee packed in little plastic ramekins while the brewer sits on stand by all damn day. Sheesh, talk about laziness writ large and no consciousness of use impact. These things suck!

Via also has its own brewer, expressly for making these hyper-packaged bits of American excess one cup at a time. For my money you’d be better off doing it in the microwave.

Stupid is as stupid does

At any rate, if Starbucks really believes it has improved upon the otherwise thin taste of instant coffee (itself a ridiculously lazy concept except for maybe soldiers and Doctors Without Borders) they could have at least packed the stuff in an old fashioned can á la Chock Full O’ Nuts.

But to wrap each and every serving on its own? My gosh. Its as bad as the equally ridiculous Mio single serve so-called “water enhancer.”

Are we Americans entirely incapable of measuring out a scoop of coffee? Have we lost touch with the art of measuring water? At this rate we’ll devolve and lose our arms altogether, leaving only phalange buds emitting from our shoulders with which to text our coffee orders in to the great franchised coffee shops of the world.

What’s doubly bad is that these are products formed with an unconscionable lack of cognizance about our energy and climate situation while pitched on the basis of their “green” bon a fides. Coffee itself is an unsustainable product if you look at deforestation and long fossil fuel driven shipping. But at least if we’re going to drink it we should try to generate as little waste as possible. Try to do as much of the processing here as possible.

Put your money where your mouth is

Our entire consumer lives today are a state of let the buyer beware. Maybe we should flip that, and tell the seller to be on guard. One way to achieve this is to imagine you are boycotting all products, and then make only those exceptions where the product is truly necessary, satisfying, and meets the triple bottom line of being good for the environment, good for people, and good for your pocketbook.

Meantime, bulk beans, hand ground, and slow brewed in a French Press will help keep you alert enough to suss out the worthy offerings from the hyped frauds.

Down with the Via. Death to Mio.

–Lindsay Curren, Lindsay’s List

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P.S. Today is Bike to Work Day so…get pedaling!

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About Lindsay Curren

Lindsay Curren has no intention of ending up the Scarlett O'Hara of the 21st century, dizzy and confused as neo-Rome burns. Instead, the Staunton, Virginia based writer, designer and high-heeled survivalist writes Lindsay's List, the women's conservation blog and edits Transition Voice, the online magazine on peak oil and the coming life of sweaty labor and, hopefully, nicer manners.

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