Today is the official, official North American launch date for my book, Everything but the Coffee, although it has been out for some time already.
To mark the date, though really to get some of the cobwebs out of my head from the second to last ever Springsteen show at the Spectrum (Bruce fans here is the impressive set list, http://www.backstreets.com/news.html), I decided to try the free sample of Via Ready Brew I got at the Starbucks at Temple last week. Via, as the name implies, is Starbucks new INSTANT -- that's right instant -- coffee. I will comment on the cultural meanings and brand and busines implications of the company's decision to introduce this product later this week. For now, I want to talk about the taste. Actually, I'm going to let my wife -- and fellow Springsteen traveler -- Ann Marie do the tasting. As some of you surely know, she is the more careful and observant of the two of us.
Like a veteran coffee cupper, Ann Marie first took a long whiff of the coffee. "Smells pleasant," she noted. And the color, she added, "is nice, kind of rich."
What about the taste, I asked.
"Did you make it right?" Ann Marie asked before going on. I did I assured her. I even measured the amount of water I put in the cup -- exactly eight ounces -- and I gave it a vigorous stir.
"Well," Ann Marie said, "the coffee tastes okay, but it doesn't have much body. It is kind of watery." But she was quick to add, "I mean I have tasted a lot worse. It is a good alternative to real coffee."
Is that what Starbucks really wants in this crucial momemt in the brand's history? Does it want to put the full marketing press on a "good alternative to real coffee"? Will this win the company back any customers?