Taste Test: Nescafé Clasico vs. Starbucks Via

On a recent trip to a Foodarama, I found eight packets of Starbucks Via instant coffee for $5.69 and an eight-packet box of Nescafé Clasico for $1.09. That's right, more than a $4 difference. That being said, the instructions on the Starbucks call to add eight ounces of water, while the Nescafé calls for just six ounces, so you are getting a little more (Starbucks comes out to eight cents an ounce while Nescafe comes out to two cents an ounce).

So which is better? I decided to do a blind taste test of both products using five everyday coffee drinkers from my office, all of whom take their coffee black with no sugar. I wasn't trying to find out if they would replace their regular coffee with instant, but wanted them to judge which was the better of these two instant options. They had three criteria: smell, taste, and value (meaning, would one be worth four times more money?).

Sample one was Nescafé, and sample two was Starbucks. Four of the five tasters picked sample one as the overwhelming favorite in aroma, and a few thought sample two smelled laughably bad, with comments like, "the other one smells like ass."

As for taste, three of the five picked sample one, but one of the tasters said she was split down the middle on which one to choose and picked sample two because she was pressed. There was one taster who was adamant that sample two was much better.

When it came to whether or not either was worth four times as much money, there was a unanimous agreement that neither one justified such a high price point.

When it was revealed that sample one was the Nescafé, every single responder was shocked. A few had even remarked that they could tell which one was the Starbucks before the reveal -- and they were all dead wrong.

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Lennie Ambrose