Coffee geeks: I have a confession to make. Today I was running late to an interview appointment, feeling slow, groggy. I found myself on the south end of NW 23rd Avenue in the Alphabet District, a desolate wasteland for us lovers of espresso. Facing the risk of falling asleep in front of my subject, I did what any self-effacing caffeine junkie would do. I went to Starbucks. Will you ever read another word I write?

Though my double espresso arrived presented well, served in a gleaming white enameled miniature porcelain cup, looks were deceiving. It tasted like nothing.

Before I left for, the girl at the counter offered me a gift: A tiny envelope of instant coffee called Via, a new product Starbucks is trying to promote. For anyone who has been to England or Ireland, two countries whose sensibilities toward food and drink make even the most gastronomy starved regions of America seem like the Rhone Valley, drinking instant and flavorless coffee from an envelope seems like perfectly acceptable behavior. You just add hot water and stir. For those of us (who despite our occasional transgressions) who plan our lives around future cups of coffee, instant coffee in an affront to everything in which we believe.

For us, the world is comprised of two types: Those for whom coffee (and food) are events that require quality and a certain degree of ceremony, however humble and those who see food and drink as mere fuel: a means to an end. For those,

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