For the last four or five years I’ve been waking myself up with Starbucks Instant, easily the equal of the finest fresh-brewed coffees and hands down the greatest tasting instant I’ve ever known. Particularly those packets of Dark Italian Roast and French Roast. I routinely take them to France because you can’t buy them there. But you can buy them in any Starbucks outlet in any state, and you used to be able to buy them in my local West Hollywood Pavilions, both on the regular coffee shelves and on mini-shelves in the independent Starbucks cafe within the store.

But starting about three weeks ago, those wood-colored cardboard containers of Italian and French Roast, which offer 12 plastic packets for $9.95, began to disappear, and in their place I began to notice these icky white-and-violet containers offering 8 packets for $6.99. I recoiled in disgust. These newbies seem designed for girly-girls. The prices are roughly proportional but why discontinue my old favorites? They’ve been a staple of my life. Why are you taking them away from me, Pavilions? Or are the Starbucks guys at fault?

Last Friday I asked a Pavilions assistant manager what the story was, and he said the woman who could answer was off for the weekend, but if I left my number she would call me back — he really said this — “within 72 hours starting Monday morning.” I thanked him for the offer but said that the woman in question seemed overburdened, and that I didn’t want to make things worse.

I wrote and called Starbucks headquarters this morning. Three, four times. A lot of whining and pleading. They’re not exactly Jonny-on-the-spot types. I was finally given a written answer at 2:30 pm by a Starbucks employee identified only as “Amy.”

Her letter read as follows: “In regards to your questions, the 12-count Starbucks VIA Instant Coffee in Italian Roast is available only in U.S. Starbucks stores, while the 8-count Starbucks VIA Instant Coffees in Italian Roast and French Roast is available in U.S. grocery stores for $6.99.”

That’s really, really not true, Amy — the 12-count Instant Italian Roast and French Roast have been, until recently, routinely available not just in my local Pavilions but on shelves in as couple of Gelson’s I’ve visited. And like I said, even the 12-count packages haven’t been available over the past two or three weeks in the in-house Starbucks store.

People like Amy never give you a straight answer, but the bottom line, I suppose, is that I’m going to either have to order Starbucks Instant online (which I did today) or start making a habit of visiting Starbucks stores and snapping up my favorites when they happen to have them.  All I know is that somebody — possibly a Pavilions manager but who knows? — is fucking with me and my Starbucks morning comfort, and I don’t like it.