Kevin K.'s Profile
On their U.K. web site Nestle does indeed have a separate super premium classification for the Alta Rica, Colombian, etc:
Not to say these excellent products are a substitute for fresh-roasted single farm coffee, but as you say for a good cup of coffee without hassle they are great. For those interested, get on the Nescafe site and click on "worldwide" and you'll get a sense of the vast range of coffees they make only for specific markets. Unfortunately they don't think highly of the U.S. - heck they sell great coffee in the UK which has always had much worse coffee even than the States!. You can buy Alta Rica and Colombie via mail order check Amazon - but at a high price.
I've been following this topic with great interest. Nestle is an amazing company, and if you get on the Nescafé web site and go to "Worldwide" you can visit the sites for individual countries and see just how dialed-in the products are for each market.
We live in Mexico most of the year. I brought some Starbucks Via instant with me and ended up tasting it against the best of what's available locally, both instant and fresh-roasted. I've worked in the specialty coffee business as a buyer and taster for 28 years (even wrote a book on coffee, "Coffee Basics"), so needless to say I'm harder to please than most.
Clearly the best instant coffees are the super-premium Alta Rica and Kanjara only available in Europe, but even here in this third-world country the premium products (Diplomat and Ristreto) are excellent and the everyday Nescafé while low-grown tasting still is far superior to anything one can get in the U.S. except for Taster's Choice or the obscenely overpriced Via.
I posted some thoughts and my taste test results on a blog I do for local foods here at Lake Chapala: