Veteran readers of this site know that if three’s one thing The Beat is obsessed with it’s Vietnamese Instant Coffee. This amazing product as sold by Vinacafe comes 24 packets for $3.50 and provides an all-in-one mix of coffee, milk and sugar that packs a morning wake up punch as strong as Anderson Silva.
These 3-in-1 instant coffee products are common in Asia, and so convenient and cheap we’re stunned that they haven’t caught on more here in the US. But that changed the other day when a trip to Trader Joe’s revealed a new product called TRADER JOE’S INSTANT COFFEE PACKETS. Being out of grounds or beans for our Aero Press the other day we eagerly gave this product a whirl. And here’s what happened. (Click for larger images)
The packaging was promising; TJ’s trademark suburban retro. The product came in the long tubes that we associate with Korean instant coffee, doubtless to fill the layers of powdered ingredients more easily.
Upon pouring it into the cup we were a bit more dubious. Mostly sugar! And what appeared to be a rather stingy portion of powdered Arabica.
This was the result of pouring in about 8 oz of water. Probably too much but I need more than a zip in the morning. The color is not what I would call enticing. It tasted, frankly, yukky and chalky. As for it’s wake-up properties, Ben said, “It would make a great bedtime drink because you’d go right to sleep.”
My comparison to Korean instant coffee was all too apt—as I’ve noted before here, other Asian instant coffee packets run from weak to mild. Only in Vietnam do they seem to prefer the particular brand of rocket fuel/poor man’s Aderall known as VinaCafe – 3 in 1 Instant Vietname Coffee Mix
Interestingly, TJ’s product has a list of actual ingredients—cane sugar, corn syrup, mocha flavor, etc (coffee is the last listed ingredient)—as opposed to Vinacafe’s intriguing yet troubling list of only three: coffee, sugar, milk. I’ve read that some instant coffee don’t even contain actual coffee…which I can believe, as it seems to be some sort of energy drink that smells like mocha cappucino.
Bear in mind, this is a drink so potent and addictive that some particularly nutty friends of mine once tried snorting it.
Vietnamese instant coffee is the only thing that gets me through San Diego Comic-Con. It’s easy to make in any hotel with hot water and two cups of it will get you up and blogging in no time. It’s an unhealthy, cheap, effective drink that should be in regular use on every college campus in the Western Hemisphere. Why it isn’t better known still amazes me.
Trader Joe’s has tried to get in n the 3-in-1 coffee market with a pallid imitation that wouldn’t give a toddler a buzz. TRY AGAIN. Someday America is going to get the instant coffee packets it deserves.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.