I use to loath instant coffee. Partly it is because I was spoiled by the huge discount offered by the Starbucks in my campus. More importantly, the bourgeois image of enjoying a finely brewed coffee somehow deluded me to look down on instant coffee – a product to be consumed by workers who are too busy or too poor to try anything more enjoyable.
It was not until my local grocery has run out of the canned coffee that I finally turn myself to instant coffee. I was more like a starving animal who can no longer find his prime food and have to scavenge for leaves and roots to survive.
Yet, instant coffee is actually not that bad. Of course, it isn’t rocket science to know that instant coffee is watery and can sometimes be awful, depending on the different brands. Some brands can offer some exotic tastes and worth the price. Above all, time is of the essence. In the rush morning, nothing can beat a timely coffee.
The first instant coffee that I tried is G7 Pure Black Instant Coffee from Trung Nguyen. I hold a high expectation for Vietnamese coffee (and for those who are interested in Vietnamese coffee and café can read my article). The smell diffused immediately as I tore off the sachet. At first it doesn’t seem hopeful because it smells like something is burned. The taste is, however, quite exotic. Indeed, it tastes like it is over-roasted but the feeling is closer to having the Japanese pan-fried green tea.
Another brand of instant coffee that I tried come from a country near to Vietnam: Thailand. Thailand is famous for durian, ladyboys and the (recent) military coups but not coffee. Hence Khao Shong is not very known within the coffee world, and that is not without a reason. Her instant coffee tastes bitter and uninspiringly sour. I guess there is a long way before Thailand can produce some better coffee.
Japan has her own way of adopting foreign things. The sweet Japanese curry is one example. Japanese coffee is another example. Among a myriad of Japanese coffee brands, UCC has established her own empire as she produces a wide range of instant coffees coded in 1xx series. The most popular one is The Blend 117. The label on the glass jar says the coffee beans come from Brazil and Columbia. It smells a little like the salted meat but the taste is strong yet not too bitter. It is perfect in the morning.
I have also tried the UCC Special Blend Organic Farming, since it is under discount in my local grocery. The label indicates Ethiopia and Brazil as the origins of the coffee beans, so I guess it probably has the flowery fragrance from the Yirgacheffee coffee, the prized coffee beans from Ethiopia. Indeed when I opened the lid, it smelled of sweet fragrance and a little hint of lemonade. Although for an espresso love like me, it tastes way too light, it does deliver a taste of flower and lemon. It is not recommended for people who just want to have a strong cup of coffee.
Lastly but certainly not the least, Pocket Coffee Espresso from Ferrero should be more strictly classified as confectionery than instant coffee. This is right in one sense. It is a small block of dark chocolate with some little crystal-like granules. However, inside the chocolate is a small shot of espresso liquid whose energy-boosting effect is just like any instant coffee. Unlike other brands, it claims to use 100% Arabica, rather than the cheap and bitter-tasting robusta. This combination of dark chocolate and fine coffee is an interesting choice for coffee lover.
Instant coffee may not be the best but neither is it the worst. Whether a coffee is good or bad depends on the taste itself, rather than concluding beforehand by looking whether the coffee is simply instant coffee or actually comes from Starbucks or Pacific Coffee.