This morning I had a non-scientific cup-to-cup shoot-out between Starbuck's new Via™ Readybrew Italian Roast and Medaglia D'Oro brand Instant Espresso. (Medaglia D'Oro is reviewed numerous times on the site; do a search to see those reviews.)
The Readybrew (Starbucks instant) was provided free by my local Starbucks. It's not yet available in the stores in my area, but may be available via their website. I bought the Medaglia D'Oro at a local Whole Foods Market several months ago.
Both products were dissolved into identical ceramic cup containing between 7 & 8 oz. per cup of fresh hot water from my espresso machine.
The Medaglia D'Oro dissolves fairly quickly, tending to stay on top of the water. When the rounded teaspoon-ful was stirred in, it leaves what appears to be a micro-foam of "creama" on top, like you would expect if you added a shot of espresso to the water. It leaves the water a rich dark-brown. The liquid has good aroma and tastes good, with only a "hint" of the metallic flavor associated with freeze-dried instants.
The Via™ is packaged in a one-cup mylar/foil packet 98mm X 24mm (under 1 inch by under 4 inches). The product is dry, and dispenses easily but I had to squeeze it out from back to front. It seemed to want to stay in the pouch and is attracted to itself like it was charged with static electricity. It sank to the bottom of the cup and dissolved very quickly, forming a deep black liquid with no foam on top. The aroma was good, but maybe slightly less than Medaglia D'Oro.
I first tasted each cup "black". The Medaglia D'Oro has a very slight "instant" quality about it, a taste that is slightly "metallic" to me. Beyond that, the flavor is very rich, rounded and a bit "fruity" to my taste. This fruityness intensifies when I add my customary 1.5 teaspoons of sugar.
The "black" Via cup is closer to a cup of french-press-brewed Italian Roast than the cup of Medaglia D'Oro. The aroma may be slightly less, and the flavor is somehow "flatter" but there is no "instant" or "processed" taste, and you can taste the coffee solids that you would encounter in a cup of french-press brew on your tongue. This further re-inforces the "brewed" vs. "instant" quality of the product. Adding sugar took away the very slight "acidic" taste and made the coffee surprisingly good. It's better than any "instant" I've tasted and closest to a brewed cup. The empty cup even displayed some of the "micro-ground" coffee solids on the sides of the cup when empty.
I found both cups to be very good and drinkable, each with their own qualities. No clear winner for me as I found things to enjoy about each. It may take field use to sort out which one I ultimately enjoy best. I was unable to differentiate between the caffeine contents of either cup, having drunk both. I did feel a kick appropriate to 1.5 to 2 cups of italian roast or espresso roast coffee, however.
I'm a Starbucks and a Medaglia D'Oro customer, but not otherwise associated with them.
For trail and camp coffee, I've used "cowboy sock" methods, lexan french press, lexan pump-style espresso maker, gsi stove-top espresso maker, jetboil press, Java Juice and finally (as my pack-weight has fallen below 15 lbs,)Medaglia D'oro instant.
I'll be trying the "Via™" readybrew on my next trip if available along with the familiar Medaglia D'Oro.