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Taste Test: Instant Coffee

Story: Emma Mannheimer

Photo: Courtesy of Swift Cup Coffee

Instant coffee’s a known commodity among travelers and those too busy to brew, and now instant coffees are finding their way into the mugs of discerning coffee drinkers. Well- sourced beans and the development of proprietary freezing and dehydrating practices have helped dramatically improve the quality of instant coffee, and the results in the cup can be surprisingly satisfying. We taste tested a range of options, from small producers to large—here are six we recommend.

Tandem Coffee Roasters Time and Temperature Named for their classic espresso blend, Time and Temperature from Portland, Maine’s Tandem Coffee rotates seasonally but always features one Ethiopian coffee and one Colombian—brewed and then freeze-dried and pulverized into a fine grain in collaboration with Swift Cup. The coffee’s bright acidity is balanced by juicy berry notes. $15/pack of 6, tandemcoffee.com

Swift Cup Coffee Burundi Long Miles Natural Brewed into a potent concentrate then freeze-dried, Swift’s Burundi instant—packed with notes of strawberry and almond—is made in collaboration with The Long Miles Coffee Project. “Typically, the window for fresh Burundi coffees is quite small,” says Nate Kaiser, founder of Swift Cup. “We’re able to offer Burundian coffee year-round as we process the coffee at its peak freshness and preserve it through freeze-drying for years to come.” $12/pack of 6, swiftcupcoffee.com

Starbucks VIA Instant Veranda Blend We tried several VIA blends, and while we’d steer clear of the darker French and Italian Roasts, the Veranda, which is  a light roast of 100 percent Latin American arabica beans, stirs into a simple but smooth cup of coffee that’s conveniently available at nearly any Starbucks location. $12/pack of 8, amazon.com

Canyon Instant Coffee Described as a “shop-quality Americano in your pocket,” Canyon Instant begins as batch-brewed coffee sourced from Celinga in Ethiopia’s coffee-producing Yirgacheffe region. The final product, produced by Swift Cup, is bright with peach highlights, making the perfect single-serving morning brew possible wherever your travels take you. $20/pack of 6, canyoncoffee.co

Sudden Coffee Light Roast Previously available only via subscription, Sudden Coffee’s quality coffee crystals are now sold at retail. Working with roasters such as Intelligentsia and Ritual, Sudden uses a proprietary process that yields instant brews to rival traditional pour-over. $20/pack of 8, suddencoffee.com

Voilà Discovery Box Oregon-based Voilà hit the market at the end of 2017. Dapper & Wise, Coava and Upper Left are just a few of the roasters Voilà collaborates with for its line of instant coffees, which are perfect for those on the go. $16/pack of 5, voila.coffee

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