Some people actually enjoy the taste of instant coffee. For the rest of us, it tastes like sludge that we can barely choke down when we are faced with the terrifying choice of instant or nothing.
Thankfully, a San Francisco coffee start-up is working to solve that dilemma for us by offering a selection of artisanal instant coffee. Yes, seriously. "Artisanal" and "instant" can go in the same sentence!
Since the coffee crystals consist of dried actual coffee, what you're getting is not that different from the hand-brewed stuff you'd find in a fancy coffee shop. Of course, it won't be as fresh, but Sudden Coffee promises that you'll get the same taste in each cup as you would at the coffee shop.
"Sudden Coffee is hand-crafted, each individual tube is packaged by our processing teams, just like a micro roaster sending out individual bags," the website promises, adding, "We have spent hours, coming up with a consistent recipe for each tube, so no matter where you are, or what type of coffee you are making, it is the same [every time]."
The trick is in the quality of their single-origin, lightly roasted beans and the "magic" process they use to crystallize the brews, which they say preserves "all the sweetness and complexity while minimizing bitterness."
The price is a little steep, at a $25 monthly subscription for eight cups ($3 a cup). Starbucks Via instant coffee is only around 83 cents a cup, while organic specialty brands like Mount Hagen are even less than that, at around 35 cents for a perfectly palatable cup of the instant stuff. A proper in-store brewed artisan coffee is around $2 in San Francisco, so the jury is out on whether or not it's actually worth it.
In the meantime, there are some genuinely good tasting instant coffees out there: Sudden, Mount Hagen, or Starbucks Via, for example. If you're willing to throw down a few extra bucks at your local health food/specialty food store for the stuff labeled "gourmet" or "organic," you'll find that it tastes a lot more like an actual cup of coffee than the swill you are used to.
Would you pay $3 a cup for Sudden instant coffee?