Because of Via, I Can’t Hate Starbucks

I know I’m supposed to hate Starbucks. I know all the lines I’m supposed to say to justify hating Starbucks: They burn their beans. They are Corporate Coffee. They make milkshakes, not coffee. They put mom-and-pop coffee shops out of business.

But I can’t hate Starbucks, because they invented Via. Have you had Via? Actually, wait-have you ever had instant coffee? Taster’s Choice, Nescafe in a European hut, anything like that? Okay, if you have, imagine instant coffee, but instead of the shit taste you get when you drink instant coffee, you taste…coffee. Good coffee. Like better tasting than 100 percent of of the swill served in truck stops and hotel lobbies in the United States.

Now imagine that coffee in the backcountry, 10 or 20 miles away from the nearest road. Yes. This is what I’m talking about.

Via eliminates all your worries about coffee in the backcountry-packing filters, or an Aeropress or a shatterproof French press, spitting out grounds from the bottom of a mug of cowboy coffee, packing out a mass of heavy, wet, coffee grounds, which really start to pile up after a few days out there. You tear open a little foil packet, dump it in a mug, add hot water, and drink it. As long as you don’t lose the little foil packet, you are as Leave No Trace as you can get.

I know what you’re thinking: “But I am a coffee snob, and only use a one-cup pourover/Aeropress/French press that fits inside a water bottle/Jetboil.” Trust me, any coffee apparatus is bulky and heavy compared to the space-age microgrounds that the people at Starbucks have invented for your pleasure and convenience. Coffee grounds are the only things that get heavier as your backcountry trip progresses. Besides wag bags, I guess. With Via, you consume the food product inside, and carry out the wrapper.

The only downside is any feelings of shame you might have in supporting Starbucks. Sometimes I cringe at the thought of how many thousands of cups and lids pile up in landfills every day courtesy of Starbucks, and how much gas is burned by people sitting in drive-thru lines, and what would Bob Marley think about his revolution music being played in a chain coffee shop that pulls in $16 billion a year.

And then, like a heroin addict who, while shooting up, blocks out all the negative things he has done in the past 24 hours to get enough cash for one more hit, I ignore all those feelings and focus on the joy of a cup of strong backcountry coffee with no mess.

Look, I’m dealing with it. I don’t use it all the time-only when I’m in the backcountry. It’s just a few foil packets a year, and a few dozen dollars into the massive profit jar of Starbucks. It’s not like I’m using a Keurig twice a day, producing exactly two cubic inches of garbage for every cup of coffee I drink, or throwing away a cardboard cup plus a plastic lid plus a cardboard sleeve every morning when I take another lap through the drive-thru on my way to the office. I am, apparently, using this paragraph to rationalize it by comparing it to other more wasteful methods of coffee consumption.

It’s just so damn good. And easy, and mess-free. No one’s paying me to say this, and I’ve never even gotten so much as a free pack of Via in the mail. I just want to get it out there, my guilty pleasure, and maybe help some other people who are dealing with the same thing.

Photo by Sarah Gilbert

Camp Notes is a big high five to the fun of sleeping outdoors and all that comes along with it. You know, camping and stuff.




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