Earlier this week, British Business Secretary Peter Mandelson delivered an expletive-laden tirade about Starbucks CEO and Chairman Howard Schultz, who had given a dour assessment of the British economy. It was a bit strange.

But now I wonder if Schultz is regretting his comments for a reason that has nothing to do with Mandelson's ire. Starbucks has been rolling out a variety of new products recently, the most, um, original of which is a new brand of instant coffee called Via. For a company that once promised a caffeinated jihad of "hiring people who were fanatically passionate about coffee and celebrated their interaction with customers," the instant move seemed odd. Was Starbucks slumming it? But this article from the Economist shed some light on Schulz's plan:

Starbucks says it has patents that should prevent competitors from quickly replicating Via, which will go on sale in some American stores next month. The opportunity may, however, be biggest in other countries: in Britain over 80% of coffee sold is instant, compared with just 10% in America.

I had no idea. Schultz is presumably hoping that British consumers are "fanatically passionate" about consuming instant and not, as he put it last week,"very, very poor."