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Review: Starbucks Via Caffè Mocha

Starbucks Via Caffè Mocha
Some packets of Starbucks Via Caffè Mocha, strewn about the springtime concrete walkway at NEAROF HQ.

The last in our series of hot chocolate reviews is actually not quite a hot chocolate. Instead, it’s a caffè mocha mix, which is sort of a hybrid between a latte and a hot chocolate.

It’s part of Starbucks’ line of Via instant coffee beverages, a line I’ve tried before (see our Via Pumpkin Spice Latte review here. Depending on your success metrics, other Via products I’ve tried have either been a) a vast improvement on almost any other instant coffee I’ve had the misfortune of trying, or b) they still don’t come close to replicating the flavour of a real, freshly brewed cup of coffee made from freshly ground, freshly roasted beans.

As such, it’s best to note that I’m going into this with realistic expectations. In this case, I’m hoping the “mocha” (ie. chocolate) notes drown out any imperfections in the instant coffee.

The Pitch: “Here’s to moments of pure delight.” Oooo-kay. But please, continue. “Our Starbucks VIA Caffè Mocha is an irresistible treat – the perfect union of dutched and natural cocoa, Starbucks coffee and dairy. This everyday indulgence is rich and full of depth, a celebration of our handcrafted Starbucks Caffè Mocha.” If you can taste the difference between dutched and non-dutched cocoa in a beverage like this, then good on you. The real story here for hot chocolate fans is that the milk is already inside the packet, blended into the powder. In some settings – especially an office – this is a much bigger deal than the semi-dutched-nature of the cocoa. Just add water; no milk necessary.

The Look: Foil plastic packets in a cardboard box. Pretty in that Starbucks “we have an army of well-caffeinated designers” look of things.

The Cost Per Cup: One box has four individual packets inside, and each packet makes a cup. At $7.95 for a four pack, that’s an easy to calculate $1.99 per packet. Compared to a tall mocha at Starbucks? Good. Compared to just about every hot chocolate drink mix out there? Awful.

The Taste: Rehydrated powdered milk product, cocoa, then coffee. The milk tastes funky, and nobody in their right mind would mistake this for a legit mocha made by a human being at Starbucks. Using the suggested water instead of milk (because at that price, I’m not adding extra money for dairy), it tastes more milky than some of the other hot chocolates recently reviewed, and the water/mix ratio is spot on for my tastes, if a little strong for some; but that milk taste is off, and it still doesn’t taste rich enough, especially given the “made with dairy” proclamation on the front. The coffee flavour is there, but, blessedly, the other flavours are strong enough that they distract from the instant Via coffee’s likely inadequacies.

RATINGS AND DETAILS

Cost: $7.95 for a four-pack at Starbucks in Calgary.

Value for cash money: Ugh.

Availability: Starbucks (so basically everywhere that falls under control of the law of gravity).

Nutrition?: Per 1 packet (37 grams): 150 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 105 mg of sodium, 2 grams of fibre, 6 grams of protein. Also, 15% daily value of both iron and calcium.

The verdict: I love the idea. I have a hot water tap mere steps from my office, which would make this an easy drink if I’m busy working on a project and can’t run out for a warm coffee to perk me up. But the dairy is distracting, and the cost is absurd given the mediocre quality.

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