Alpine Start Coffee

Review: Alpine Start Instant Coffee

Move over Starbucks, there’s a new kid on the block when it comes to instant coffee: Alpine Start.  Since the Starbucks Via came on the market it’s become a staple of fast-and-light adventures everywhere.  And like cigarettes in a jail house, these little packets of caffeine are the currency of the backcountry.  However, much of the popularity of the Via stemmed from the fact that it simply didn’t have much competition and because it’s widely available.  But the glory days of limited competition are at an end!  Matt Segal, the pro climber, and partner Alex Hanifin recently introduced Alpine Start instant coffee and it’s getting stocked at more and more outdoor retailers.

Alpine Start Coffee
A box of Alpine Start instant coffee.

Alpine Start instant coffee comes in an elegantly simple box containing 8 individual packets.  Each packet contains 3.1g of instant coffee, slightly less than the 3.3g found in a Via packet. There’s currently one flavour or blend: Original, which they call Premium Italian (an Italian roast maybe?).  I’m assuming that we can expect the line-up to fill out as time goes by.

Alpine Start Coffee
Preparing for a comparison test of Alpine Start and Starbucks. Water at 200 degrees to start.

But the big question of course is: How does it taste?  To determine how good (or bad) the coffee tastes it was compared to a Starbucks Via instant coffee, specifically an Italian and a French roast.  To ensure that the testing was done as scientifically and professionally as possible I solicited the help of a local coffee pro, Tim.  Tim and his wife Emily own a small batch coffee roasting company here in Squamish called Counterpart Coffee.  Needless to say, they are true coffee aficionados and the perfect crew to help test Alpine Start coffee.

Alpine Start Coffee
Coffee Guru Tim from Counterpart Coffee testing each brew with a sip test from a spoon. Apparently this is how you do a coffee “tasting”.

So how did the Alpine Start stack up against the French and Italian roast Via?  Well, Tim, Emily and I all think it kicked ass!  The French roast Via was extremely bitter, almost to the point of being unpalatable when not in a backcountry environment.  The Italian roast Via was a bit less offensive than the French roast but all the flavour had been roasted out.  The Alpine Start coffee tasted of dark chocolate and cherry though still a bit roasty with some bitterness and just a hint of sweetness.  Basically, it tasted like a decent cup of drip coffee!  WOW!

Alpine Start Coffee
In the end we compared the Alpine Start instant to a cup of drip coffee. It had more in common with the drip than it did with the Via instant.

Alpine Start coffee, at about $1.15 USD per cup, is slightly more expensive than a Via.  However, it’s still an inexpensive cup of coffee given what you’ll pay at your local Café and tastes great.

Pros:   A huge improvement on taste!  Reasonable price.  You’re supporting a couple of entrepreneurs.

Cons:  Not as widely available yet though that’s changing fast.

Overall:  If you try it there’s no going back to the bitter Via’s!  I’m going to be ordering a big box of Alpine Start coffee to have on-hand for my summer alpine trips and even took a sample down to Climb-On Squamish in hopes that they’ll start to carry it.

Special thanks to Emily and Tim at Counterpart Coffee for helping me out!