In the beginning, there was Folger's crystals, the standard instant coffee if the '70s. When I was a kid, my grandmother would make it for me in her little teacups with lots of milk and sugar, and she'd show me how to cool it off by pouring it into the saucer and sipping it. It was delicious, but my mom didn't want her 10-year-old drinking coffee. We waited until she left and my grandmother, winking, would pour me another cup.
Then came high school, and the tender beginnings of the "coffee house" trend in America. My art school friends and I would drink coffee because it was so grown-up and "hip."
Then came college journalism. I became a professional coffee drinker then. After that came the actual newsroom, and, well, coffee was as much a part of my life as my keyboard and reporter's notepad.
Instant coffee fell into the background along with all the other processed foods of my childhood. I embraced the gourmet coffee thing with both arms. For about a decade. At which point I realized I really didn't enjoy strong roasts or a burnt taste or coffee so high octane it left me feeling like a meth head in the afternoon. And then there were the costs. I won't pay $4 for coffee on principal. I started going to 7-11 to get my coffee.
It was all downhill from there. I bought a jar of Nescafe, which reminded me of travels in the Middle East. I bought various jars of instant coffee marketed to various ethnic groups: East Indians, Latinos. All good. All worthy. Instant coffee was luring me back in.
I read all the brou-ha-ha about Starbuck's foray into instant coffees about a year ago. I didn't pay any attention, although I should, perhaps, since it's sort of my job to pay attention to these things.
Then Luke brought over a sample for me. "It's really pretty good," he told me. "For instant coffee."
I tried it one morning, when I couldn't find enough brain cells to clean my coffee maker and make a cup for myself. Boiling water is so much easier than cleaning a filter and trying to figure out how many teaspoons will make a decent cuppa.
I was surprised how good it was. No, scratch that. I was shocked.
I say this with no love for Starbucks. I am a hateful bitch toward corporations in general. But I have to admit I think they nailed something here.
So now I'm back to my first love, instant coffee. It's not an everyday thing; but it's good to have in the house. I recently bought a 12-pack of the stuff, which comes in clever, easy-to-open one-cup tubes. An organized person would pack these with them on a business trip and save a grip of money on not having to buy hotel coffee — or even Starbuck's at a Starbuck's.
Now that I'm back down to a cup a day, Starbuck's Via instant coffee tubes are my new favorite thing. If you're as discombobulated, and disorganized as me in the morning, and need your caffeine hit instantly, check these out. They have the Bad Home Cook Seal of Approval.